We carried out an evaluation of the advisory services of the rural development programme for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in 2016-2019. According to the evaluation, the advisory services have benefited farmers, in particular in dealing with practical problems, adhering to support conditions, farming planning and planning the future of the farm. The popularity of these services does however vary greatly between ELY centres, production lines and advisory areas. It is also recommended that many more farms than is currently the case should be covered by the advisory measure scheme, as these services are currently used predominantly by larger and growing farms only.
One third of farms used the service, the demand for advice on raising competitiveness is high
In the Rural Development Programme for Mainland Finland, a total of EUR 29 million of public funding has been allocated to the advisory measure. By the end of 2018, a total of 43 954 Neuvo2020-payments had been made and approximately EUR 13.28 million in compensation had been paid.
Advisory services are provided across 38 thematic areas. Significant variation exists in the level of attractiveness of the various themes and thus in the advisory events of the target areas. Much of this advisory activity relates primarily to the conditions for support for environmental and animal welfare payments or to the competitiveness of farms. Competitiveness advice, which began in 2017, has generated significant levels of interest meaning that the objectives of the programme period have already been greatly exceeded.
Around 34 % of Mainland farms receiving subsidies in 2018, some 16 459 farms, used the service. Across the whole of mainland Finland, livestock farms (especially dairy farms) are generally those most interested in these advisory services, although the majority of those receiving subsidies are crop-based farms.
765 advisers have been approved to join the Neuvo2020 advisory register administered by the Food Agency on the basis of the applications received. The majority of these advisors work in the environmental and competitiveness themes, with the fewest advisors covering the energy and organic farming themes. Regional differences are also apparent in the number of advisers available. In February 2019, the Food Agency opened a continuous advisor recruitment call which is expected to address this situation and facilitate a more equitable geographical spread of advisors.
Farmers satisfied with advice, more information is needed
Farmers are mostly satisfied with the advice they have received, the biggest benefit of which was the practical help related to farm problems or challenges. The advisory system works relatively well, although there remains room for improvement in the IT system, in the terms of the advisory allowance and in relation to the administrative burden. In general, advisory communication is generally welcomed, but more information for farmers is undoubtedly required on the range of topics used by Neuvo2020, especially concerning the content of economic advice given. In addition, the subject of advisor training requires further attention, particularly now that a continuous advisor recruitment process has been put in place.