Farm Accountancy Data as a Source or the History of European Agriculture

Farm Accountancy Data

Farm accountancy data are used nowadays in the EU for fine-grained analysis of policy impact and are collected by the Farm Accountancy Data Network of the EU, that dates back to the 1960s.

The history of the use of aggregated farm accountancy data, though, begins at the end of the 19th century, when agricultural associations promoted the spread of accounting techniques among farmers of different European countries.

In the wake of the agricultural crisis that hit the European countryside with the inflow of grains from across the Oceans, the leadership of European agriculturalists began thinking that only a through increased efficiency European agriculture could survive. Scientific book-keeping was to be an key component.

In the 1920s, agricultural associations and the International Institute of Agriculture (IIA), the predecessor of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, launched an ambitious and unprecedented attempt at international standardization of accounting rules in order to collect comparable accountancy data.

From 1929 to 1939 the IIA published yearly volumes of statistics concerning profit and losses of farms, their expenses and their revenue covering up to 19 countries in Europe, North America and Asia.

All the accounting offices mentioned by the enquiry of the IIA that began in 1914 and was only published in 1924.


I wrote this project to study the farm accounting data collected and published by the International Institute of Agriculture in the 1920s and 1930s, understand their function and see what they reveal about the effects of the Great Depression on Europe’s agriculture, and prepare the creation of a database of historical farm accountancy data.

This two-years project is a Marie Skłowdowska Curie Action. I started in September 2019 and will end in September 2021. The Department of Management of Ca' Foscari University of Venice will host me during this time.

I will analyse the Farm Accountancy Statistics series published by the International Institute of Agriculture concerning the evolution of agriculture in different countries for the period 1928-1938, by examining:

  1. the theoretical underpinnings of farm accountancy data;
  2. the actors involved in the production of data at national and international level, including economists, agricultural associations and international organizations;
  3. the data expected influence on policy;
  4. the picture of European agriculture that emerges from the data.

As a result, the project will contribute to our understanding of the impact of protectionism, transnational networks and international organisations during the interwar period, a time of international economic tensions that increasingly resembles our own.

A page from the "Recueil de stastistiques basées sur la comptabilité agricole".


While I do not expect to create a database at the end of the Farmaccounta project, I am trying to assess whether farm accountancy data could be treated in analogy with household budgets of the HHB project or business data of EURHISFIRM.


Federico D'Onofrio
Marie Curie Fellow

Giovanni Favero
Scientific Responsible