AgriLink The role of advisory services in farmers’ decision making for innovation uptake: new labour arrangement. - AgriLink

The role of advisory services in farmers’ decision making for innovation uptake: new labour arrangement.

France, Pyrénées Atlantique and Gers
Region

Investigation were carried out in two districts (Nuts 3) in South-West of France: Gers, France, is an agricultural district (Nuts 3) in South West of France. Gers is a highly agricultural and rural territory:  agriculture provides 12% of employment. It is the 8th French country (out of 100) in terms of field crops (CAO, 2017).  Since the early 2000s, the number of farms has dropped significantly (CAO, 2017): in 15 years, from 2002 to 2017, Gers lost 1,416 farms (a decline of nearly 20%). The average farm size has increased sharply, well above the national average, now standing at 86.5 hectares (against 63 hectares – AGRESTE, 2018). Gers is an agricultural area with a high level of crop diversification.

Region map.

The other focus region is Pyrénées Atlantiques (PA), located south of Gers. In terms of new outsourcing practices, this is one of the 3 French counties (out of 95) with the highest percentage (16-18%) of farms whose management of all cropping operations (cereals, oilseeds and protein crops) is delegated to a third party (“A to Z” outsourcing). In PA, the density of agricultural service providers of all types is also very high, with more than 350 organizations (private contractors, cooperatives, farmers).

Study focus

The study focuses on a social and organisational innovation, new labour arrangement linked to farms’ outsourcing strategies. Outsourcing is a phenomenon known mainly in the industrial sector, where it has predominated and developed at a sustained pace since the beginning of the industrial revolution and more particularly since the 1970s.

In agriculture, in addition to mutual assistance, the outsourcing of certain technical operations, such as harvesting and wrapping, is also a longstanding practice. But for a long time mainly small farms, which did not have the necessary equipment or labour, used to outsource such operations.

It was not until the mid-1990s that outsourcing in the agricultural sector really took off. Since then, it has continued to develop steadily. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of farms making significant use of outsourcing more than doubled, with new practices such as outsourcing operations that require sophisticated technologies and specific skills (conservation tillage, phytosanitary treatments with on-board computerized technologies, etc.). The question of advising with regard to the rapid development of these new outsourcing practices is central: what has been the role of farm advisory systems in the development of these practices? What is in turn the impact of these practices on the advisory landscape?

Full report is available here.

Partner and responsible person contact

INRAE

Pierre Labarthe, pierre.labarthe@inrae.fr

National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE) is France’s public National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment. The team involved in AgriLink involves three research units from the division Sciences for Action and Development of the Institute. INRAE coordinates AgriLink; the team has experience in former EU projects on farm advice, including PRO AKIS, and published various papers on these issues.

Lessons learned
1 Farmers' decisions to use these new forms of work organization correspond to four main types of needs.
Farmers' decisions to use these new forms of work organization correspond to four main types of needs: (i) outsourcing of activities as part of a redesign of the production system, (ii) outsourcing of crop activities to rationalize investments in machinery and to focus on the core activity, (iii) "A to Z" outsourcing for patrimonial reasons, to keep control on the land, and (iv) outsourcing because of the difficulties to find and manage reliable staff. They then adjust according to their geographical environment (e.g. available contractors) and organizational environment (e.g. their networks of other farmers, various sources of advice), to find the best possible advice to implement these strategies. A main feature of our findings is to show a very wide variety of micro-AKIS configurations.
2 There is an increased demand for economic & strategic advice related to the management of the farm and of labour.
Another result is to highlight that there is an increased demand for economic & strategic advice related to the management of the farm and of labour. There are however few actors able to provide such advice. Some traditional actors, such as the cooperatives and accounting firms, seek to develop these skills in strategic consulting by taking advantage of the long-term relationship they have established with the farmer for other purposes. It is also a way for these actors to build trust with their clients/members and to occupy a new advisory market that is expected to increase, given the current agricultural context where the global performance of the farm depends not only on the technical skills but also on the managerial ones.

Want to know more?
Follow us on social media

Stay connected!
Sign-in below to receive more AgriLink 2020 news.