The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is constantly evolving. Its evaluation tools must develop concurrently. Including economic experiments in the toolset would be a valuable complement to capture farmers’ behavior and policy acceptance. economic experiments are highly effective for policy evaluation. They allow testing new policies before implementation, provide evidence on their effects, and identify factors influencing policy outcomes. 

As part of the Research Network of Economics Experiments for CAP evaluation (REECAP), Contracts2.0-collegue Jens Rommel from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences contributed to a newly published article in the EuroChoices Journal. “Can Economic Experiments Contribute to a More Effective CAP?,” the authors ask. They examine experiments use in agricultural policy research and discuss their potential to help policy-makers understand farmer decision-making processes better.

 What are economic experiments?

Experiments are situations that allow for the study of decisions in controlled and reproducible environments. Like medical trials, where patients randomly receive medicine or a placebo, farmers are randomly assigned to different “treatments”. Treatments can, for example, simulate situations with and without CAP measures or include alternative measures’ designs. Comparing decisions in the treatments, researchers can isolate the causal impact of the policy and the relative performance of design alternatives.

 Advantages for policy evaluation

That way, experiments provide answers in a short amount of time and at much lower costs than, for example, trial and error in the “real world” would before the policy is implemented. As experiments are based on farmers’ preferences policy design and related incentives can flexibly be adjusted in advance. The use of control groups ensures to distinguish responses to different policy designs from policy effects and external factors.

Current agricultural policy simulators assume profit-maximizing behaviors only. economic experiments often include cultural and other factors, which can generate profound insights into farmers’ complex decision-making processes.

Including economic experiments in the policy evaluation toolbox

Experimental approaches still need to find their place within the policy evaluation cycle. Collaborations between stakeholders involved in agricultural policy-making and research will be vital to ensure that economic experiments will find their place in the CAP evaluation toolbox to support a more effective CAP development.

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