Farm Business Survey (FBS)
The FBS is widely recognised as the most authoritative survey of the financial position and performance of the businesses of farmers and growers in England and Wales . It is paid for by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the National Assembly for Wales and is supported by the farming unions, the Country Land and Business Association and the Tenant Farmers' Association.
The FBS is the main evidence base that Defra uses to assess changes in farm business performance. The data is also used extensively by farmer organisations, unions, agricultural banks, consultants and advisers.
Why join the FBS?
Farmers and growers who take part in the FBS receive a free, fully comprehensive, set of management accounts and, on many businesses, enterprise gross margin data as well. This allows them to benchmark their performance.
Whether or not you take part in the FBS, there is a range of data and information to help you in your business - it's all available at www.farmbusinesssurvey.co.uk where you can access the following tools for free to help measure and direct your business:
- FBS Farm Business Benchmarking
- FBS Projection Calculator
- FBS Regional Data
- FBS Data Builder
The Farm Business Survey is conducted by AFIT in the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, the Isle of Wight, Kent, the metropolitan county of West Midlands, North Somerset & South Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, incorporating the whole of the South East and large a part of the South West and West Midlands Government Office Regions.
In the whole of England around 1900 farmers and growers per annum are surveyed. Approaching 500 of these are in the above region surveyed by AFIT at the University of Reading.
Q. How will I benefit from taking part?
A. You will receive a complimentary management account and information, which will help you to assess the state of your business and compare it with similar businesses in your region.
Valuable management information produced by your local Unit will allow you to measure the performance of your business against the regional standards for specific farm types. The regional reports are well regarded by agricultural and horticultural advisors, bankers and accountants as being an authoritative source of farm management information.
Q. What sort of information does the FBS collect?
A. The FBS collects a range of management accounting information on all aspects of farmers' and growers' businesses.
This includes information on the revenue and costs of the farm or horticultural business; assets and liabilities; how the land is used; areas and sales of crops; sales and purchases of livestock; and the amount of labour used. It also collects more simplified information on the overall revenues and costs of farm-related businesses and on other sources of income.
Q. What are the results used for?
A. The results inform farmers and growers, the agricultural and horticultural industries, government and the general public about the economic state of farmers' and growers' businesses. The results are also used for academic research and benchmarking purposes.
The FBS is highly respected and the results are accepted as representing the economic state of farming and horticulture as it really is. The results are only published in the form of group averages for sample sizes sufficiently robust to ensure anonymity. FBS results can be compared with the state of your business by using "Farm Business Benchmarking Online" (www.farmbusinessbenchmark.defra.gov.uk ).
The press, the farmers' unions, the Country Land and Business Association and the Tenant Farmers' Association often quote figures from the FBS when representing the industry, as do MPs representing rural constituencies and many others. Government ministers use the information to monitor, develop and evaluate national and international agricultural policy and to test how effective government support is for environmental schemes. The European Commission also use the results to develop policy.
Q. Will I have to pay to take part?
A. No, the Government pays for the FBS as a public service.
Q. How much of my time will it take up?
A. The FBS will not take very much time because the information will come from your existing financial records and documents.
You do not need to keep any extra records. Your local Unit will tell you about the way it collects information. Once you have agreed to take part in the FBS, the way in which information is collected will be for you and your local Unit to agree. This typically takes the form of one or two on-farm interviews each year together with access to your existing financial records and documents.
Q. Who else will see my results?
A. Only your local Unit will be able to identify the information you provide. Your local Unit will not reveal to anyone else that you are taking part in the FBS.
Your local Unit will ensure that any information which can be identified with your farm will be held in strict confidence . Before any information is passed to the Government, each farm is coded so that the name and address of the farm is known only to your local Unit. Even the anonymous data that are passed to the Government are subject to strict controls and are handled by only a small number of people. The confidentiality policy for the Farm Business Survey is available from your Unit on request and can be found on the internet
Results of the FBS are published only as grouped information or as averages, from which it is impossible to identify data from any individual farm business. With this protection, the results are published as widely as possible. FBS data are also used for academic research, but again the same rules apply.
Q. How was I chosen?
A. You were chosen at random from the agricultural census.
The address of your farm was drawn at random, from lists provided by the Census Branch of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We recruit new farms every year to replace those farms that no longer take part in the FBS. You do not have to take part in the FBS.
Q. How many other farmers take part?
A. Over 2,300 individual farm businesses in England and Wales take part in the FBS.
These cover all the main types of agricultural and horticultural businesses. Around 500 businesses take part in each of two similar surveys carried out in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Q. Why should I take part?
A. The reputation of the FBS depends largely on the sample being balanced to represent all types and sizes of farm in all areas of the country.
Your farm has been chosen, along with others, to provide a varied and balanced representative sample. However, if you decide not to take part, we will try to substitute another farm of similar size and type so as to maintain this balance.
Q. How long do I have to stay in the FBS?
A. You are free to leave at any time.
Most farmers and growers who join the FBS decide to stay in the sample for many years. This allows for continuity in the relationship between farmers and researchers from the Units. This is important as the process of collecting information, in strict confidence , depends largely on the goodwill that develops between farmers and growers and local Units.
Q. Who carries out the FBS?
A. The FBS is conducted in England by a consortium of six FBS research units, led by the University of Nottingham , which are located regionally at universities and colleges. In Wales the FBS is conducted by the University of Wales at Aberystwyth. The units employ qualified and experienced researchers to carry out the FBS.