This first publication about task 4 of the Policy Research Centre for Sustainable Agriculture “Developing integrated farm models“ is an overview of the diversity of the domain of their eventual usage, farms. The exploration of farm business classifications was done with an ever clear focus on their future application in farm models for ex-ante policy evaluation. During this exploration, the broad and
fragmented knowledge was collected with the purpose to present an inventory that was as exhaustive as possible.
This study examines successively the most occurring definitions of farm businesses, classifications related to the legal form of the farm, the farm type, the farm size and
the farming style. Each chapter is concluded with a part on the importance of the classification for policy analysis, and where considered necessary, recommendations for research or government are made. Summarizing these policy recommendations:
1. The definitions that are used in policy analysis are the result of the policy governments want to pursue. Once policy goals change, it is possible that some definitions that are used it its context need to be adapted as well. As a consequence, the data that are collected on its behalf might need some change as well. It is in the context of changed policy goals towards a multifunctional agriculture that some definitions need to be reconsidered.
2. The number of farm businesses with a partnership legal form has increased significantly over the past 20 years. Despite its still limited relative importance (+/- 7%), there are a number of reasons why this type of farms deserves more attention in the future.
3. Since the regionalization of the policy domain “agriculture” and the resulting need for a new farm accountancy data network, this presents a unique opportunity to reevaluate the goals, uses and composition of the farm sample. A first attempt has been started in the project “LandbouwMonitoringsNetwerk”. There is, however, also a need to revise the composition and distribution of the farms in the sample.
4. For reasons of trustworthiness and reliability of the Flemish farm accountancy data network, it is important to provide a reference document which collects all the
necessary information and documentation on the composition of farm sample and the methodology of data collection.
5. Farming styles are a useful concept in the context of farm classification for policy analysis. It is nevertheless still unclear which definition and methodology should be
used to distinguish between different farming styles and to relate them to specific farms. Further research is needed in this perspective.