The Agricultural Census is conducted in June each year by the government departments dealing with Agriculture and Rural Affairs for Scotland, England, and Wales (see appropriate governmental website for the devolved region). Each farmer declares the agricultural activity on the land via a postal questionnaire. The respective government departments collect the 150 items of data and publish information relating to farm holdings for recognised geographies.
Conversion of Agricultural Census Data
The Edinburgh University Data Library has developed algorithms which convert the data for recognised geographies, obtained from the government departments, into grid square estimates. The key to transforming the raw data into grid square data is the definition of each geography (e.g. parish, in the case of Scotland) in terms of 1km squares. Agricultural Census items are distributed over those 1km grid squares with the land use category suitable for the census item in question. The categories are defined by the Landuse Framework, a 7-fold land-use classification of the same 1km grid squares (the seven land-use categories are agricultural land, upland, woodland, restricted agriculture - natural, restricted agriculture - artificial, urban, and inland water).
In the diagram above,
- Letters represent the names of parishes A - H
- Black lines represent the parish boundaries
- Each small square represents 1km grid square data derived from parish returns
There are a variety of limitations of parish agricultural statistics which may not compare directly with the geographical unit of the parish.
- Limitations of Parish Agricultural Statistics (PDF file to download)
Note 1: Because of the approximations involved, analysis of 1km grid square data is deemed too disclosive, and would compromises the anonymity of the data; hence aggregation to 2km, 5km, 10km grid squares.
The resultant grid square estimates of production are available in ASCII delimited format for the three UK territories. The following data are available via the EDINA agcensus service:
- England and Wales: 1969 - 1997
- England: 2000 -
- Wales: 2000 -
- Scotland: 1969 -
Note 2: Data for Scotland and Wales for the most recent census years will be processed in the near future. EDINA are currently in discussion with DEFRA about the receipt of recent census data for England.
How the Agricultural Census is used
Agricultural Census grid square estimates can be used:
- to increase the value of other environmental data.
- to assess how agricultural activity might affect a related proposal or project.
- to help maximise market potential. Data can be supplied in value added formats; for example, by including the application of yield factors to the data, (e.g. kilograms per hectare), to calculate market potential for a variety of agricultural related activities.
Shifts in financial policy, environmental concerns, technological advances and food safety issues, among other issues, have recently influenced farming. Commercial survival can often depend on responding appropriately to those changes. The Agricultural Census grid square estimates can help to understand the nature and extent of change.
Land use data could be the key to a marketing strategy. Whether a business is selling to the industry, or buying from it, Agricultural Census production data conveys a vivid picture of the real farming situation. Mapping the distribution of a production item allows an organisation make informed decisions on planning and policy.
New business opportunities
Agricultural data could alert an organisation to new opportunities, reduce the likelihood of financial penalties associated with bad decisions about resources, or provide a sound basis for restructuring a distribution or supply network. Census derived agricultural data has the potential to provide some of the most accurate, quantifiable and usable marketing information to anyone doing business in the rural sector or associated industries. Those interested in estimating future activity can extrapolate from 30 years of data.