Could this be the last December Agricultural Survey?

March 23, 2021 by No Comments | Category Environment and climate change, Farming and rural, Land use, Working in statistics


Welcome to the first blog on Agricultural Statistics. Through this regular note we will update farmers, agents and other people interested in agricultural food production and associated supply chains on gathering statistics through surveys and other methods.

The statistical teams in the Rural and Environmental Sciences and Analytical Services (RESAS) Division support many policy areas across the environmental, rural and agricultural portfolios. The focus for many of the statisticians is to gather data on agricultural land-use to calculate the economic output of the sector, facilitate further research in agriculture and food production in Scotland, and provide evidence and analysis to help develop future policies brought forward by the Scottish Government.

Most notably if you work in farming you will recognise our data collection through the June Agricultural Census or the December Agricultural Survey, the results from the latter has just been published today.

Over the past year we have made a number of changes to our agricultural statistics as a consequence of COVID-19. In particular, we moved the June Agricultural Census to an online form with a smaller follow up paper survey later in the summer to make the process of responding easier and to streamline the subsequent data processing.

As we plan our statistical collection for 2021, a key priority will be to continue to minimise the survey burden for farmers. We are also considering other changes to the survey design and content to gather data on wider Government objectives such as equality characteristics and diversity.

To achieve this we plan to slightly expand the June Agricultural Census form but remove the 2021 December Survey. We will then test how effective this method is in developing the statistical products needed, however at this stage we still think there will be a requirement to conduct the annual Sheep and Goat Inventory.

Statisticians will also be considering how to gather information on farm practices, historically collected through the Farm Structure Survey which was also postponed in 2020 due to COVID-19. Again the approach taken will be to minimise the survey burden to farmers and farm businesses but ensure we collect data that helps provide research and analysis to promote good decisions in the future.

To help with all of these transitions, we will be holding an online forum later in the summer to highlight the changes we will be making.

If you would like to find out more information then contact the team by email ( or leave a comment below.

In my next post I will describe other work which is being developed to reduce the number of Cereal Harvest forms and how we hope to deploy satellite technology to capture new information on land change and environmental monitoring.

Alastair McAlpine
Senior Statistician
Agricultural Analysis Unit

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