PACIOLI 4, Final results of the concerted action

This reflection paper is the final deliverable of the EU-sponsored concerted action PACIOLI (Panel in ACcounting for Innovation, Offering a Lead-up to the use of Information modelling). This concerted action brought together scientists from several countries and international organizations who are interested in farm accountancy, farm information systems and agricultural policy information (especially Farm Accountancy Data Networks - FADNs). Objectives are the improvement of the quality of data, the stimulation of their use, the improvement of information management and cost effectiveness and an assessment of the need and feasibility of innovation projects. Four workshops have been organized in 1995 and 1996, from which papers have been published. This summary incorporates the most important results from the whole concerted action.

Table of contents

Reform issues
Managing innovation
Innovation at farm level
Project proposals:

Epilogue
Management Board

Reform issues

Information systems that are relevant to farmers and decision makers in agricultural policy should be adapted from time to time to changes in the decision-making environment of their users. Otherwise the information and its sources lose their relevance and becomes obsolete. An analysis of the Agricultural Strategy Paper by mr Fischler on its effects on the Farm Accountancy Data Networks, shows that the several policy options have different effects (see table 2.1 in the main text). Some changes, like speeding up the data delivery, developing an FADN in Central and East European Countries and gathering more data on cost of production and subsidies will be relevant under all the policy scenarios.

Managing innovation

The management of reform (innovation) in FADNs is not easy. This is partly due to problematic governance, which makes strategic management difficult. Policy makers are usually unable to clearly formulate their need for data in the future. Planning processes are not very common, although the elapsed time from a decision to gather data until the arrival of the data is (too) long. The introduction of a working agenda is proposed to support the solution of this problem.
A stakeholder analysis shows that FADNs have to maintain the support of many, and quite different, stakeholders. In this respect there are also differences between member states. For the purpose of managing innovation, stakeholders can be classified according to their attitude towards each innovation topic.
Within the European Union there seem to be two archetypes of FADNs, labelled type X and Y (see table 3.2 in the main text for more details). Type X is among others characterized by buying data from accounting offices, which leads to relatively low costs but also to data with a lower value (less detailed etc.). Usefulness of the data in the Type Y system is higher, especially for research and policy analysis, but the system face a higher risk of loosing the support of the stakeholders.
Information engineering, by designing process models and data models, can be used to describe, analyse and eventually change the information systems of an organization, both technical and functional. Main advantages are increased flexibility, inclusion of all definitions including derived statistics, translations and meta-information, separation of decisions on harmonization and transfer, and lower costs of generating software and maintenance. Section 3.5 of the main text provides an example for the European RICA.

Innovation at farm level

The adoption of farm accounting shows large differences between member states. Current expertise cannot easily explain these differences. This lack of know-how of the factors that determine the use of accounting and accounting software hampers the process of innovation. The issue is also relevant to policy, as several policy measures have been taken to promote the use of accounting. It also implies that it is hard to support innovation from the top of the RICA organization, as good know-how of local circumstances is a key factor in successful innovation. A joint innovation process in agricultural accounting offices also seems hard to establish. Reasons indicated for this situation are: the domination of accounting by a fixed framework, the differences in investment level, the nature of the profession and lack of local competition. Accounting does not seem to be a favourite pastime of many farmers. There seems to be a gap between the normative supply of accounting data that are difficult to understand and the interpretation needs and skills of farmers. Accounting methodology is changing. Agricultural accountants are beginning to compare their methodology with those used in other sectors. The IASC works on a specific standard for agriculture that could be beneficial to FADNs.

Project proposals

Based on the analysis in the PACIOLI workshops, we identified a number of actions for improvement of farm accounting and FADNs. The proposed projects are:

New areas for data recording in an FADN:

A. Economics of high-quality food production systems
Gathering and analysing data on organic farming, high-quality food products (including special regional products) and good farming practice.

B. Management of rural development
Gathering additional regional data in an integrated rural data network, presented in a Geographical Information System.

C. Recording environmental impact
Gathering additional data on the environmental impact of the farming systems

D. Evaluation of rural landscape
Evaluating the contribution of particular farm systems to the rural landscape, as seen by the citizens.

Improved use of FADN data

E. Rapid results
Providing users of FADN data with more timely data and forecasts.

F. Agricultural micro-economic information system
Use of modern information technology to districute the RICA data to researchers and the public in order to increase the use of the rich data set.

G. Using micro-economic data to analyse policy issues
Creating econometric models to supply policy-relevant conclusions on the basis of micro-economic FADN data.

Application of FADN know-how in related domains

H. Towards RICA for PECO countries
Creating a network of experts in order to promote micro-economic farm analysis and RICA development in Central and East European countries.

I. Simplification and development of farm accounting
Making use of the know-how of farm accounting specialists to develop recommendations to policy makers on the simplification of accounting without losing its benefits for tax purposes and environmental control.

Improving FADNs

J. MACE: Managing Cost Effectiveness of the FADNs in the RICA Network
Improving the cost / benefit ratio of FADNs by benchmarking.

K. Typogy 2000+
Create a new farm typology that is less complex, guarantees comparability and takes into account new developments like environmental issues, rural development etc.

L. Quality in harmonization of FADN data
Installing an up to date quality program in the RICA network, as harmonization of data is a key succes factor.

M. Standardization of data handling in FADNs and RICA
Improving the information infrastructure of the FADN/RICA administration as a basis for an efficient, effective and up to date system.

Several of these projects are linked. Especially some of the projects that gather additional data cannot be carried out without improving the FADNs and their data handling.

Epilogue

With the publication of this reflection paper and bringing the project proposals in the public domain, the official EU-sponsered concerted action is closed. It is a sign of the success of PACIOLI that the partners have decided to keep the network alive at their own expense. The 5th workshop will therefore be organized in June 1997 in Sweden.

Management Board

Project coordinator:
EU Brussels:
Finland:
France:
Italy:
The Netherlands:
Spain:
Sweden:
United Kingdom:

George Beers (LEI)
Nigel Robson (RICA)
Jouko Sirén (AERI)
Bernard Del'Homme (ENITA)
Guido Bonati (INEA)
Krijn Poppe (LEI)
Inmaculada Astorquiza
Bo Öhlmér (SUAS)
Nigel Williams (Wye College)

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