Farmers’ Perceptions of Payment by Results scheme in UK

Farmers’ Perceptions of Payment by Results scheme in UK

Earlier this year, researchers from the UK ‘Contracts2.0’ team spent some time working with Natural England and the Yorkshire Dales National Park’s Pilot Results Based Agri-environment Payment Scheme (RBAPS) to study farmers’ perceptions of this results-based pilot project. Another focus of the joint study was to identify the changes to the management practices as well as the habitat quality of the farmland resulting from the participation in this results-based scheme.

 We found that farmers had very positive experiences of the payments by results scheme and, overall, habitat quality was at a comparable level to control sites in conventional agri-environmental agreements. This can be seen as a success considering the relatively short timescale of the project and the additional empowerment of farmers within PBR approaches. Interestingly, many farmers chose to maintain many of their existing management practices, rather than aim to improve the habitat quality as we might expect in a results-based system. Farmers recognised a relationship between their existing habitat quality and the cultural & environmental heritage of the landscape, where unique elements of the area such as ancient flower meadows resulted in sufficient payments. Farmers also noted some important factors outside of their control which impacted management, from the weather conditions to the valuable advice and support received from local project officers.

Our report was submitted to the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, as a part of the supplementary evidence relating to the ongoing RBAPS trial and development of the new Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) in England.

Project Outline

We conducted detailed interviews with farmers involved in the RBAPS pilot in January 2021. The interviews lasted on average for approximately 1 hour 30 minutes, with the shortest interview being just over 1 hour and the longest being 2 hours and 30 minutes. The interviews took place either online via video call (on Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom or WhatsApp) or over the telephone. To ‘map’ the farmers’ land management timelines and to compare any changes to management before and during the pilot, we used an interactive online platform called Mural to show farmers the timeline as we were making it. The RBAPS pilot in Wensleydale and Coverdale is focused on Grassland habitats for breeding waders and species rich hay meadows. The upland environments of many of England’s National Parks, and across the UK’s CIL area in the Contracts project, are in many ways ideal landscapes for the delivery of these types of environmental public goods, alongside numerous others.

Figure: Example of a Land Management Timeline made during the interview on Mural

Land Management Approaches in Results-Based Schemes

Motivations and Objectives in Results-based Approaches

One of the most important factors we identified through our in-depth interviews was a distinction between farmers who aim to ‘improve’ habitat quality and those who aim to ‘maintain’ it through results-based schemes. This distinction between ‘improvers’ and ‘maintainers’ appeared both in terms of motives for habitat quality and the management strategies the farmers employed. The objective of maintaining habitat quality might appear to run counter to the conventional assumption in results-based approaches that farmers will be incentivised to ‘do more to get more’. Though initially surprising, farmers explained that their reasoning for maintaining habitats were many-sided and varied from the short-term scope of the pilot to the existing relatively high standard of their habitats, detailed further below. 

Figure: Tracing Farmers’ Land Management Goals in PBR

Environmental Heritage in Protected Areas

Where we found that many farmers were content to maintain the quality of the habitats that they already had, several farmers said that some long-existing cultural environmental features of these habitats, which are unique to protected landscapes, were reasons for their existing good standard. So, where farmers have sought to maintain existing habitats, alongside pragmatic factors of management, they also emphasised the already high-value heritage features of their habitats. These include features more common in National Landscapes, such as

  • long-existing uncultivated hay meadows with rare and ancient seeds,
  • local & traditional land and animal management practices such as making small hay bales
  • locally unique cultural and environmental landscape features such as hay barns

To illustrate, hay barns, for example, are not only highly valued by tourists as beautiful, picturesque features of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, they also hold an important traditional role in practices of small hay bale making, as they enable farmers to house the hay close to the place it was made and where it will be needed for livestock in winter months. Furthermore, this process is one of the most environmentally friendly practices of producing storable forage: the ‘tedding’ (or drying process) redisperses seeds across the meadow. Traditional small bale hay making also avoids issues of soil compaction, where larger bales necessitate heavier machinery, and remove the use of plastic, which is needed to wrap grass for fermentation in silage or haylage production. Therefore, we can see that many of these ‘environmental heritage’ features have both environmentally and culturally valuable qualities which are unique to England’s protected landscapes. 

 

Figure: Hay Barns in Wensleydale (Image © James LePage)

Administration and Support in a Results-Based Pilot

Another factor which was universally identified by farmers as a huge benefit of the results-based approach was the scheme administration. Beyond the highly valued simplicity and flexibility offered by results-based contracts (in contrast to the demanding and complicated paperwork of England’s existing action-based schemes) farmers also emphasised the key role that the National Park Authority (NPA) officers played in scheme support and delivery. Farmers highlighted that the role of the NPA’s local officers in scheme design, information provision, training, and dialogue was fundamental to scheme uptake and success. For the broader developments of results-based schemes, local or regional organisations such as NPAs are, in many ways, well placed to be important intermediary facilitating bodies for these roles.

Issues out of their control: Adverse weather

Farmers also emphasised their habitats’ vulnerability to the impact of the weather, including extreme flooding or conversely, unexpected dry spells. Almost all the farmers made several comments about the negative effect of the weather, particularly when this was combined with differing assessment timings, upon their habitat scores. This vulnerability has important consequences for ‘pure’ results-based schemes, and indicates that ‘hybrid’ schemes, which combine results and action-based, might help to reduce some of the risk to farmers from issues outside of their control.

Disseminating our results

Following our interviews and analysis, we complied a detailed report which was submitted to DEFRA alongside Natural England’s main summary of the Pilot to date. We were also delighted to present some of our recent research into participant farmers’ opinions on payments by results as a part of a national conference ‘Farming with Nature’. This conference, convened by the University of Cumbria, aimed to explore how nature can be delivered within our farmed ‘National Landscapes’, namely England’s main protected areas such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). This approach was a key recommendation from the Landscapes Review.

Future Directions for Wensleydale RBAPS

The pilot is currently running under another extension funded by DEFRA and is exploring alongside the participating farmers how future schemes might work better: Either as ‘hybrid’ schemes which combine elements of action and results-based approaches, or at varying scales which might plan agreements at farm or even landscape levels, rather than individual field parcels.

For more information read our full report regarding Farmers’ Experiences of Results-based contracts in Wensleydale or contact me at Jennifer.dodsworth@abdn.ac.uk or @JennyferDods on Twitter.

Implementing innovative contract models – results from the Policy Delphi

Implementing innovative contract models – results from the Policy Delphi

The second round of our online Policy Delphi study – focusing on opportunities to implement innovative contract models in the current policy arena – was closed during the summer, and the first results are just fresh out of the oven.

A key characteristic of the Delphi method is that it runs in several consecutive rounds. This allows the researchers to use the findings from the preceding rounds to design questions in the forthcoming rounds. This allows to dig a little deeper into the most exciting (often controversial) topics, which is exactly what happened in Contracts2.0. The results of our first Delphi round were analysed to identify converging and contested topics, which were then turned into questions and statements to test in the second round of the survey. 32 experts from 15 European countries participated in the second round, with almost half of them indicated to have direct policy experience at national or subnational level.

Based on the answers from the first round on how the ideal contract would look like to incentivize farmers for more sustainable farming we could synthesize three prototypes: a) a mixed contract combining action-based and result-based elements, signed bi-laterally between farmers and funding agencies for a medium duration (5-7 years); b) a result-based contract, signed between a group of farmers (collective) and the funding agency, with flexible duration (from short to medium or long term); and c) a value-chain contract, signed between farmers and other actors of the value chain (e.g. food processors, retailers, certifiers), which builds on an existing AECM contract and provides a price premium for more sustainable products. As the figure (above) suggests, the majority of the respondents would choose a mixed, action- and results-based contract for an European level contract prototype, but still almost one-quarter of the respondents would suggest alternative contracts, mainly ones which offer more flexibility to choose collective (landscape-level) agreements or different contract lengths from shorter to longer term.

We also asked what the best way is to implement these novel contracts, and there seems to be an agreement about agri-environmental-and climate measures still being the main target area, where innovative contract characteristics can be implemented as top-ups or additional payments to more mainstream conventional (i.e. action-based) contracts. In terms of funding novel contracts through the Common Agricultural Policy, responding experts underlined the outstanding importance of the Pillar 2 payments. Within Pillar 2 policy instruments, almost 70% of the participants pointed to agri-environmental and climate measures, while voluntary interventions in Pillar 2 for investment, knowledge exchange and cooperation, as well as for ecological constraints were listed by 34.5%. Eco-schemes, which is a part of the new green architecture affiliated with the Pillar 1 payments, were also mentioned by 34.5% of the respondents – with this proportion, eco-schemes seem to be the most promising instrument within Pillar 1 with a considerable potential to integrate innovative contracts.

As we learned from the first round of the Delphi study, available budget is a strong constraint for implementing innovative contracts (beside others, like increased transaction costs or higher uncertainties). Financially supporting environmentally friendly farming through different instruments of the CAP, as suggested by the findings shared above, can be a strategy to alleviate the budget burden. However, it raises further questions such as additionality and potential double-payments received for the same result from different schemes. Fostering coherence within the CAP and between the CAP and other policy areas is a key step forward and will also be a focal topic of the third round of our Delphi study.

written by Eszter Kelemen & Boldizsár Megyesi (ESSRG)

 

For infos on tools and techniques for initiating a policy dialogue on innovative approaches check our Practice Abstracts no. 10

Policy Innovation Labs – The new age of policymaking?

Policy Innovation Labs – The new age of policymaking?

The development of innovative approaches to strengthen the provision of public goods is at the heart of Contracts2.0. The corresponding contractual solutions are co-designed by a diversity of stakeholders and practitioners in our regional Contract Innovation Labs (CIL).  To support the wider acceptance or the scaling up of these novel contracts, the Contracts2.0-Policy Innovation Labs (PIL) aim to lobby for the implementation of the innovative approaches into the respective policies on regional, national and EU-Level. The following article reveals how this is done in case of Contracts2.0 and what kind of general approaches are available to drive policy innovation.

The phrase “policy-making” can evoke a certain image in one’s mind. As something that is made by experts, technocrats and politicians, it is often associated with a rather hierarchical, strictly top-down process.

The remoteness of those who produce policies from those who will be affected by them is a major challenge for all levels of public policy — local, national and international.

So how does one bridge the gap between policy-makers and “policy-takers”, and make the process a bit less hierarchical? That’s where policy innovation comes in, as governments across the world try to experiment with the way in which policies are created, gradually moving away from the traditional ways of conjuring solutions behind closed ministerial doors. This novel approach to policy creation flips the entire process over, and the results have been quite promising.

 Types of policy innovation

The realm of policy innovation abounds in methods and tools that all seek to resolve the same policy problem in various ways. Although the list of such methods is indeed very long, some of them have been successfully applied in practice to generate new policy ideas:

Policy experimentation for developing and testing policies has gained traction in recent years with increasing support for Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) by organisations such as the World Bank, and various initiatives to improve public service delivery and institutional efficiency. Chances are, if you’ve recently read about a major policy breakthrough, especially in the developing world, its effectiveness was probably established through RCTs.

Although experimentation in policymaking is often conflated with ‘innovation’, out-of-the-box thinking and trying out new or different ideas, in essence, it is a systematic process requiring rigorous evidence collection/generation and evaluation. It allows policymakers to assess the impact of potential policies by employing techniques such as piloting and prototyping. This enables them to gauge the cost-effectiveness of policy interventions to see if they require adjustment or even termination before they are rolled out or scaled up.

Despite the potential benefits, governments are often reluctant to innovate or veer too far from the status quo, fearing loss of investment or policy failure. However, with experimentation and evidence, there is immense potential for learning from failure as well and examining what does not work at the same time as trying to figure out what does. That is the model at the heart of the UK Cabinet Office’s What Works Network that has been replicated, amongst others, in Canada, the US, Finland, Colombia and the UAE. The pilot Accelerator Labs at UNDP are also experimenting with local innovations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Behavioural insights provide an inductive approach to policymaking research, borrowing from economics, psychology and cognitive science, and are often used to create incentives and ‘nudge’ people to follow an established policy. The behavioural approach is underpinned by experimentation and use of evidence related to typical patterns of behaviour in a cost-benefit context. This approach enables policymakers to create the environments to induce public to make decisions working towards the desired outcomes without changing any costs or benefits that they are faced with. While this kind of policy design can have ethical issues, nevertheless, it can be a useful tool for more effective policies.

While experimentation and behaviour-inducing policies are driven by evidence, strategic foresight is applied in cases where the future policy context is unclear and can only be modelled through tools such as trend analysis, horizon scanning and scenario planning. This allows policymakers to map plausible “futures” and situations that could arise as well as the corresponding challenges and opportunities. The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the necessity for such anticipatory measures, and the need to prepare and innovate for crises. This approach enables policymakers to ‘stress-test’ existing or potential policies and systems to anticipate risks and evaluate whether they can sustain future shocks.

In contrast to the technocratic (or top-down) types of policy creation involving exclusively expert knowledge and political will, there are also approaches that attempts to come up with new policies in a less hierarchical and more bottom-up way. There are many variations within this approach, but the gist remains the same: policies are to be made together (or co-designed) with those whom they will affect. This goes far beyond a mere consultative function, since direct and meaningful involvement of all parties is key.

 Policy Innovation Labs (PIL)

One of such novel approaches to policymaking that uses co-design is the Policy Innovation Lab (PIL), which engages various stakeholders in an innovative co-creation of policies. Taking a holistic view of whatever problem is at hand, this approach brings together policymakers, scientists, community representatives and whoever is at least tangentially related to the particular context of the problem.

This multi-actor composition is designed to address the issues of ineffective policymaking and low levels of policy acceptance (i.e. popularity among those that it is designed to affect) by bringing stakeholder engagement to a new height and placing it at the heart of the policy formulation process.

The PIL-Approach in Contracts2.0

The PIL approach is also used in Contracts 2.0, an EU-funded project that aims to inform and improve policymaking with regards to the increased provision of environmental public goods in agriculture. In nine European countries (Hungary, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark and United Kingdom) Contracts2.0 established Contract Innovation Labs (CILs), in order to co-design innovative contracts with regional farmers and other stakeholders. The resulting output of the CILs (“dream contracts”) is then fed into the Policy Innovation Labs (PILs). The PIls aim to facilitate the implementation of the novel approaches into the policy framework. They do so by taking a constant feedback from relevant stakeholders (e.g. regional/national policymakers, practitioners and public administrators, scientists, NGOs and associations) into account, to ensure that potential pitfalls are avoided.

The outlined mechanism of interactions within and between CILs and PILs represents an effective bottom-up approach to policymaking by placing stakeholder contributions at the most important stages of the policy cycle (e.g. agenda setting, policy formulation). The multi-stakeholder approach ensures that the different points of view are taking into account. The project framework envisages that the policy requirements formulated in the CILs and refined into policy recommendations by the PILs would be taken up or in some way implemented by policymakers, thus completing the policy cycle (from formulation to effectuation).

How to ensure success?

However, the mid-term evaluation of the Contracts 2.0 project and its PIL-approach identified some weak spots, which could prevent the PILs from exploiting their full potential. Some of the assessed PILs report problems regarding an active and consistent pattern of participation of relevant stakeholders in the PIL Workshops. Another risk to the success of the PILs is the potential intertia of administrative institutions and the clinging to the status quo. Features which stand in the way of a recognition let alone adoption of novel policies or recommendations.

While the PIL method is indeed well-designed and has the potential to generate great policy insights, it is important to motivate policymakers to commit to a more consistent support of the co-designing and the implementation of innovative policies. The success of this approach also depends very much on the personality of the involved stakeholders and policy makers, to go out of their way and try something new. The lab coordinators need to address this issue via a tailor-made flow of information and a well-structured discussion culture to facilitate the implementation.

A very important aspect of the PIL-approach in Contracts2.0 is the Cross-PIL-collaboration and integration of research (from the scientific work packages), which enables the exchange of experiences and knowledge across borders, setting off synergies and avoiding duplication of effort. This approach needs to be strengthened in the near future to help inform not only national policymaking but also support the development of a set of more holistic recommendations (e.g. #CAP-Refom) for the development of a conducive common framework while allowing enough flexibility for the individual Member states.

Perhaps in the future governments will rely more on this method of policy innovation, and establish their own autonomous Policy Labs (e.g. similar to that established in Northern Ireland). This way, the bottom-up approach would make its way to the top of national policy-making.

(Written by our guest authors: Ifrah Hassan & Daniel Borsos (School of Public Policy, Central European University)

Further Reading:

Experimentation: https://www.centreforpublicimpact.org/assets/documents/CPI-A-brief-intoduction-to-Policy-experimentation.pdf

Behavioural Insights: https://oecd-opsi.org/guide/behavioural-insights/

Northern Ireland’s government-backed Innovation lab: https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/articles/evaluation-innovation-lab

“Food provision in the 21st century” – How Contracts2.0 contributes to the scientific discussion

“Food provision in the 21st century” – How Contracts2.0 contributes to the scientific discussion

Food provision under ever more challenging environmental conditions might soon become a central subject for decision-makers worldwide. In June 2020, Contracts2.0 researchers participated in the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (EAERE) conference. The session “Food provision in the 21st century”, organized by Prof. Mordechai Shechter, brought together researchers from different disciplines examining how to feed the world’s growing population sustainably. In Contracts2.0, we research value chain approaches to support the transformation of the agricultural production system.

Food provision challenges

By 2050 the world’s population is projected to reach a staggering 10 billion people. To keep pace with the growing population’s demand for food, supply must grow by 56 percent by 2050. At the same time, the farming system needs to reduce its impact on the environment.1 Currently, half of the world’s food is produced in an unsustainable way, which in the medium term will further deteriorate natural systems’ productive capacity. Declining biodiversity, water overexploitation and pollution, and the loss of fertile soils are symptoms of the current agricultural practices. Therefore, it is a pressing question whether it is possible to provide enough food for a growing global population while maintaining environmental goals?2

Food gap

Figure 1. By 2050 global food production needs to increase by 56 percent. Source:

wri.org/sustfoodfuture

Scenarios and solutions

The session presented solutions that included the consumption side (e.g., diet changes, reduced food waste) and the production side (e.g., water use, fertilizer use, land management changes, irrigation). Prof. Dieter Gerten (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research) showed scenarios under which on-farm water management can simultaneously boost crop yields and decrease water use. Dr. Claudia Ringler (International Food Policy Institute) emphasized the critical functions of groundwater and presented possible scenarios for its conservation. Yael Pantzer (Slow Food Europe) focused on access to good, clean, and fair food, also highlighting cultural and political aspects. International social justice plays a critical role, as the needs and objectives of low-income countries might differ substantially from those of European countries. She stressed that food security is not only about the production of sufficient amounts of food but also about its quality and accessibility.2

The presented scenarios and solutions show that it is possible to halt environmental deterioration from agricultural activities and maintain food security for a growing population. However, the question remains how mankind will make the necessary changes to deal with the many challenges. Notably, biodiversity loss and climate change are the most burning topics and call for immediate radical changes in food production and consumption. If we continued business as usual, we will soon transgress planetary boundaries.3

Contracts2.0 research on eco-labels

In Contracts2.0, our research supports the necessary transformation towards a more sustainable food system. One example of our work is creating collaborative models to include the value of agri-environmental public goods in product prices. Accomplishing this requires understanding consumers’ demand for environmentally-friendly practices in food production. In 2020 we carried out qualitative interviews with experts in the food industry to explore their preferences and expectations for labeling products for ecosystem services and biodiversity. Labels could signal to consumers the types of public goods produced by farmers, whose work and fields they usually cannot observe, potentially increasing their willingness to pay a price premium. The results, presenting the food industry’s views of product labeling for the effective and efficient provision of ecosystem services, will be published in a paper under the lead of Christoph Schulze.

Currently, we are conducting a study assessing consumers’ willingness to pay a price premium on grocery products labeled as produced by farmers who engaged in nature protection activities. So-called eco-labeling can help to increase the market share of environmentally friendly products, create bottom-up pressure, and incentivize food producers to change their practices. We will assess the demand for eco-labeled products and how they relate to organic products.

Achieving change

The research on industries’ and consumers’ demand for eco-labels is only a snap shot of all of our efforts in Contracts2.0. Together with stakeholders across Europe we develop agri-environmental contracts that fit regional contexts and objectives. With our research we make a small contribution to the sustainable transformation of the agricultural production system in Europe. However, to achieve lasting global change much effort is needed from all of us to reduce the growth in food demand, increase food production without expanding agricultural land, reduce emissions from agricultural production and protect and restore natural ecosystems.

To learn more about the innovative contract designs in Contracts2.0 follow these links:

  1. Limburg – Netherlands
  2. Groningen – Netherlands
  3. Koolstofboeren – Belgium
  4. Gulpdal – Belgium
  5. Northwest England – UK
  6. Hautes Pyrenees – France
  7. Madrid Region – Spain
  8. Bornholm – Denmark
  9. Agora Natura – Germany
  10. Hipp – Germany
  11. North Rhine Westphalia – Germany
  12. Örseg National Park – Hungary
  13. Unione Comuni Garfagnana – Italy
References:

1 Searchinger, T., Waite, R., Hanson, C., Ranganathan, J. (2019). Creating a sustainable food future. A menue of solutions to feed nearly 10 billion people by 2050. World Resources Institute, Washington DC.

2 Policy Session: Food provision in the 21st century, Organizer and Chair: Prof. Mordechai (Moti) Shechter

3 Gerten, D., Heck, V., Jägermeyr, J., Bodirsky, B. L., Fetzer, I., Jalava, M., … & Schellnhuber, H. J. (2020). Feeding ten billion people is possible within four terrestrial planetary boundaries. Nature Sustainability, 3(3), 200-208.

Written by Katarzyna Zagórska from the Faculty of Economic Sciences at the University of Warsaw. This note was taken based on presentations given during selected sessions at the 26th Annual Conference of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, which took place online on June 23 – June 25, 2021. The conference was organised by Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin) and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU Berlin). More information and the full programme available at the conference website: http://www.eaere-conferences.org/

Practitioners picture desirable farming landscapes for 2040 and ideal agri-environmental contracts

Practitioners picture desirable farming landscapes for 2040 and ideal agri-environmental contracts

“How do agricultural practitioners envision desirable farming landscapes and ideal agri-environmental contracts?” In a detailed report, we collect and present answers to this question. We found that practitioners across Europe envision farming landscapes shaped by viable agricultural practices that strengthen and enhance ecosystem services. It is important that actors in the farming systems share the same values, cooperate and mutually recognise each other’s expertise to make the shared vision a reality. The social setting turned out the most critical change driver, followed by the legal and political framework and land use and environmental conditions. In this post, we share some of our key findings to illustrate what practitioners believe is necessary to unite the socio-economic viability of farming with the production of agri-environmental public goods in our farming landscapes.

Developing desired landscapes and dream contracts

To answer our initial question, we carried out 28 workshops and consultations in 13 Contract Innovation Labs (CILs) in nine countries across Europe, with a total of 354 participants over the past year. With farmers, environmental NGOs, nature associations, researchers, agricultural advisors and public administrations, we envisioned dream farming landscapes and ideal agri-environmental contracts to facilitate the sustainable transformation of the farming system (see Figure 1). This approach is based on the potential of positive future visions to stimulate sustainable change within the farming system in a participatory way.

 

Figure 1. Steps from dream contract development to implementation.

Based on key information provided by stakeholders from each CIL we analysed case-specific situations and problems using swot analysis. We then asked CIL participants to picture a desirable future dream landscape in the year 2040. We encouraged participants to prepare lists of enabling and limiting factors for realising the dream landscape. Finally, we asked them to envision agri-environmental contracts that would facilitate transformation toward the desired state. The participants reflected the contracts from different perspectives such as environmental effectiveness, socio-economic viability, duration and monitoring. Lastly, we developed dream contract trajectories – paths to reach the envisioned state.

Common dream landscape patterns

Based on short descriptions the CILs prepared of the dream landscape, we singled out 99 diverse dream landscape elements, which we clustered into eight landscape building blocks: viable and sustainable agriculture, regulating ecosystem services, social cohesion, biodiversity, multifunctionality, enabling landscape managers, health and wellbeing, and cultural ecosystem services. We ordered these building blocks into four almost-equally weighted categories: multifunctionality, agriculture-related topics, environmental-related topics and social context.

The category multifunctionality is relatively broad and refers to the simultaneous provision of different goods and services of the landscape or through agricultural activities. In the category of agriculture-related topics, the most common landscape element is viable and sustainable agriculture. Viable and sustainable agriculture should be profitable, provide opportunities for new generations of farmers, generate and process quality local produce, apply sustainable farming practices, use and produce renewable energy and optimise livestock production. The category of environmental-related topics includes the landscape elements regulating ecosystem services and biodiversity. Social context consists of the elements social cohesion, health and well-being and cultural ecosystem services. Social cohesion is an essential element indicating the importance of cooperation, shared values, the connection between communities and the landscape, and vibrant rural living (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Representation of the dream farming landscape in CIL Oost-Gronningen. Several dream landscape patterns are illustrated.

Enabling and limiting drivers of change for the dream landscape

Change drivers are natural or human-induced factors that directly or indirectly trigger a change in an ecosystem. Direct drivers, such as habitat conversion and climate change, are pressures that directly affect ecosystem processed. Drivers that operate at a more diffuse level are indirect change drivers, such as socio-political, economic and technological factors.

In total, we identified 130 change drivers in our case studies that we assigned to five themes: social impact, legal policy and political context, land use and environmental impact, agro management viability and economic viability (see Figure 3). Across all cases enabling (N=62) and limiting (N=68) drivers are almost balanced. However, each case has a unique profile, which influences the likelihood of achieving the desired dream landscape. The most common them is social impact. It includes enabling drivers such as increased consumer demand, farmers’ intrinsic motivation and cooperation amongst farmers. The limiting drivers within this theme were a lack of trust and awareness.

 

 

Figure 3. Distribution of change drivers in five themes.

Unlike the three other themes, social impact as well as land use and environmental impact are described mainly by enabling drivers, meaning they are major building blocks for the dream farming landscapes. The limiting drivers are mostly related to economic viability (e.g., market fluctuations), the policy context (e.g., the uncertainty of current and future CAP developments) and agro management viability (e.g., uncertainty on the effects of farming practices) (Figure 4).

 

Figure 4. Limiting and enabling factors across themes.

Dream contracts for dream landscapes

Each CIL developed one or several dream contracts. These dream contracts are legal conduits to strike a balance between farmers’ or land managers’ economic interests and societies’ interests for the provision of environmental public goods and services. We analysed them for general characteristics, benefits, involved actors, payments and monitoring.

General contract characteristics include the targeted land use and contract length. Dream contracts targeted diverse land-use types such as grassland (N=12), arable crops (N=10) and permanent crops (N=7). Often, a contract combines several of these land-use types. The ideal contract length in most CILs ranges from five to ten years.

The dream contracts envision a wide range of benefits that go well beyond mere financial compensations for farmers (Figure 5). Overall, we identified 96 benefits that mostly help either society or farmers.

Figure 5. Envisioned dream contract benefits.

We split the financial benefits for farmers into indirect and direct monetary benefits. Direct monetary benefits include income support, cost savings and product added value.

All cases reported the involvement of one or more intermediary organisations. In eleven out of thirteen cases, a farmer group plays a crucial role to broker knowledge, manage payments, coordinate measures, carry out monitoring and build social cohesion.

In eight out of thirteen cases, funding is envisioned to come from the public sector, for example through agri-environment and climate schemes. Two cases aim for private funding and three cases envision a mix of private and public funding. Generally, we observe great interest for collective and results-based approaches, value-chain contracts and combinations thereof. Six out of thirteen cases like to experiment with combining contracts that include action-based and results-based features.

Almost all dream contracts envision that monitoring is carried out in results-based schemes and action-based schemes. We see a strong willingness from practitioners to be involved in monitoring.

Our results in the greater context

We do not claim that our results represent the whole farming community in Europe as they are entirely based on the perceptions of the participants in our 13 CILs, some of whom participated in several workshops. Furthermore, most participants are already engaged in contracts and are interested in reconciling farmer objectives with societal needs for agri-environmental public goods. Nevertheless, our results give interesting insights into practitioners’ perceptions about desirable changes in present agri-environmental contracts. Practitioners are keen to contribute to societal benefits, experiment with novel contract designs, and play a more active role in designing and monitoring agri-environmental contracts. These findings can support  the design of innovative Agri-environmental contracts and the corresonding policies and Strategic Plans within the New Delivery Model.

To learn more about our findings click HERE.

To learn more about each CIL’s dream landscape and dream contract follow these links:

  1. Limburg – Netherlands
  2. Groningen – Netherlands
  3. Koolstofboeren – Belgium
  4. Gulpdal – Belgium
  5. Northwest England – UK
  6. Hautes Pyrenees – France
  7. Madrid Region – Spain
  8. Bornholm – Denmark
  9. Agora Natura – Germany
  10. Hipp – Germany
  11. North Rhine Westphalia – Germany
  12. Örseg National Park – Hungary
  13. Unione Comuni Garfagnana – Italy

Written by Sven Defrijn (Boerennatuur Vlaanderen), Marina Garcia Llorente (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), Edward Ott (Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research), Photo Title: © Illiya Vjestica on Unsplash

Willingness to collaborate in agriculture?  A behavioural experiment shows positive results

Willingness to collaborate in agriculture? A behavioural experiment shows positive results

Many environmental objectives in agriculture can be better achieved at larger spatial scales through cooperation among farmers. In the Netherlands agri- environmental measures are implemented exclusively within farmer collectives (“Dutch modell”), which develop regional management plans together with the authorities. In a behavioural experiment, we investigated German farmers’ willingness to collaborate with the aim to introduce such an approach to Germany.

The participants’ willingness to collaborate was high and exceeded the expectations of experts. These results provide first positive indications regarding the potential of collaborative agri-environmental schemes (AES) in Germany.

(German version /deutsche Version)

Motivation and goals

There is great interest in the “Dutch approach” of collectively implementing agri-environmental schemes (AES) , since many measures are more effective, when coordinated on a landscape scale, e.g. rewetting of peatlands, protection of habitats or erosion control. The  2019 report of the Scientific Advisory Council at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture therefore also recommends: “(1) Examine the extent to which elements of the Dutch system of collective nature conservation arrangements could also be applicable in Germany; (2) improve the institutional prerequisites for the implementation of collective models of environmental and climate action; (3) in pilot projects in the current finance period, support the grouping of relevant local actors into ‘biodiversity-generating communities”.

However, little is known, about the willingness of farmers to collectively pursue environmental goals. We have investigated this basic willingness in a so-called public goods game.

The public goods game

The public goods game is a concept from game theory (theoretical framework within the field of economics). Players have an initial monetary endowment that must be divided between a private account and a group account. The money in the group account is multiplied by a number that is lower than the number of participants but greater than one. Thus, although it is in the interest of the group, players have no individual incentive to contribute to the group account, although this is in the interest of the group. The game can be used to abstractly study free-rider behaviour and cooperation. Thousands of laboratory experiments show that many people are willing to cooperate with strangers. A typical result is that participants contribute about half of their initial endowment to the group. The figure (above) shows an example with four players and an initial endowment of 10 euros.

The experiment and the survey of experts

Public goods games have already been carried out in many different versions in the laboratory. In our study, we discussed a selection of possible treatments against the background of collaborative agri-environmental schemes at a workshop during the Green Week 2020 in Berlin. In addition to a baseline version, four treatment versions of the game were selected from 17 alternatives for a study with German farmers:

(1) Baseline: four participants must allocate 50 euros between a group account and a private account. The amount on the group account is doubled and divided equally among all players.

(2) Heterogeneous initial endowment: participants have either a high or a low initial endowment;

(3) Leading by example: three participants can first see the decision of the first player and only then make their decision;

(4) Social norm: participants receive the information that many other participants have contributed high amounts to the group account;

(5) Social optimum: participants receive the information that it is in the interest of the group that everyone contributes as much as possible to the group account.

More than 350 farmers participated in our online experiment. Participants were randomly presented with one of the five options. Every tenth participant received a real payment depending on his/her own behaviour and the behaviour of the other participants.

Parallel to the study with the farmers, we asked more than 200 experts from science and practice to predict the behaviour of the farmers in our experiment. Three participants were randomly selected and received a payment depending on the accuracy of their estimate.

Results

For each of the five treatments the figure shows in orange the distribution of the percentage that participants contributed to the group account. In all treatments the average is higher than 50% and, thus, higher than in typical laboratory experiments. The contributions do not differ between the treatments, with the only exception of the social optimum, where contributions are significantly higher and reach 80% of the initial endowment.

The distribution of experts’ predictions is shown in green. Experts underestimate the contributions of farmers by an average of more than twenty percentage points.

Diagram showing farmers' contributions to public good and expert predictions of farmers' contributions to the public good.

Figure 1 Distribution of contributions (orange) and expert predictions (green) Source: own calculations

First conclusions and outlook

The most important conclusion is that participating farmers show a high basic willingness to cooperate under experimental conditions. It has also been shown that experts assess the cooperation behaviour of the participants too pessimistically. In the Contracts2.0 project, we will now discuss these results with practice partners and gather insights into the potential of collaborative agri-environmental schemes and the so-called “Dutch model” in further studies. Among others, similar studies are planned in the Netherlands, Hungary and Poland. An English-language report describing this process is available for download:

Rommel, J., van Bussel, L., le Clech, S., Czajkowski, M., Höhler, J., Matzdorf, B., … & Zagórska, K. (2021). Environmental cooperation at Landscape Scales: First Insights from Co-Designing Public goods games with Farmers in Four EU Member States. https://pub.epsilon.slu.se/23419/

Title Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash