Farmers Frustrated, Yet See Benefits From Farm Certification Schemes

Farmers feel “neutral to moderately positive” about the main farm certification scheme they participated in last year, but there are some common complaints.

LaurMG., CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Participating in farm certification schemes can be frustrating for farmers but does lead to improvements on-farm, according to a recent survey by the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge.

Farmers found plenty to both like and dislike about the farm certification schemes, with the benefits tending to equal or outweigh the inconvenience.

The three main benefits identified by survey respondents were for schemes that enabled access to premium markets, were easy to use, and increased farmer knowledge and improved farming practice.

The three most disliked aspects of their schemes were compliance costs (time, effort, money), duplication of information and data entry, and “tedious, useless and irrelevant questions”, says the survey report.

Overall, respondents were neutral to moderately satisfied with the main scheme in which they participated.

Level of satisfaction with main schemeNumber of farmersPercentage of farmers
1 very dissatisfied76.4
4 neutral2825.7
7 very satisfied87.3
Level of satisfaction with main farm certification scheme. Answered = 109, Skipped = 201, 68 comments

There are many farm certification schemes available. The survey respondents most commonly participated in five schemes: Good Agricultural Practice (NZGAP and GlobalGAP), New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme (NZFAP or FAP+), Silver Fern Farms farm assurance scheme, Fonterra Co-operative Difference, and Merino NZ’s ZQ and ZQRX.

Just over half the survey respondents participated in at least one scheme during 2020. Half of those farmers also participated in a second scheme, while nearly a quarter also participated in a third scheme.

Just over three-quarters of farmers with a farm certification scheme reported in the survey that they’d had an audit in 2020.

Farmers found plenty to both like and dislike about the farm certification schemes, with the benefits tending to equal or outweigh the inconvenience

The survey asked respondents to share their recollection of how many measurements their scheme required for environmental, social, cultural, and financial reporting. Environmental indicators were the most common requirement. About half the respondents who participated in a farm certification scheme reported that it had 6 or more environmental indicators.

There were fewer social indicators required, and fewer still cultural indicators. Financial information was required the least.

The survey was conducted to measure a baseline for participation in farm certification schemes, so that Our Land and Water can measure change over time. Participants were asked to report on their participation in schemes in the year 2020.

There were 310 survey respondents, aged between 27 and 89, representing all regions.  Over half the respondents were sheep and beef farmers, one-quarter were dairy farmers, one-fifth horticulturalists and 7.6% arable farmers. Twenty respondents indicated a range of other activities including apiculture, forestry, dairy support, deer, manuka plantation for honey, and egg production.

The survey will be repeated in 2023. Sign-up to our newsletter to receive it:

More information:

Read the full report (PDF)


Annabel McAleer

Communications Manager, Our Land and Water. Text in this article is licensed for re-use under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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