Putting a price on public goods from farming
An EU-funded project has mapped out and evaluated the non-food, feed and wood 'goods' provided by agricultural and forest land in a bid to improve support under the EU's common agricultural policy and boost citizen involvement in the provision of public goods.
© ZoomTeam #42520924, 2019 source: stock.adobe.com
Farming and forestry produce food, feed and wood but that is not all. Agricultural and forested land also provides a range of ‘public goods’, including well-managed landscapes for people to enjoy, flora and fauna biodiversity conservation, soil protection and preservation of water quality. However, it is often difficult to quantify these public goods, which means that policies to protect the advantages they bring are difficult to craft.
The EU-funded PROVIDE project is working towards facilitating policymaking by developing scientific evidence to back up policy options.
‘Our project will allow for a fine-tuning of policies that are designed to support farm and forestry public goods under the common agricultural policy. It will also boost consumer and citizen involvement in the provision of public goods from agriculture and forestry,’ says Davide Viaggi, professor at the University of Bologna, Italy, and PROVIDE project coordinator.
Mapping the value of public goods
PROVIDE project researchers have developed new methods for mapping and valuing the public goods and ‘bads’ that farming and forestry provide. The maps cover biodiversity, habitats, the effects of agriculture on habitats through habitat loss, such as ripping up hedgerows and removing field margins, pesticide use and the impacts of intensive agriculture, as well as other features.
For example, in the Netherlands, the project mapped outdoor cattle grazing, which is an important feature in the Dutch dairy sector and is widely appreciated by the public and frequently used in marketing campaigns. The case study found that while outdoor grazing is in decline, the dairy industry does not want to lose its positive image and payments could support farmers in continuing to graze their cattle on outdoor pastures.
Another case study explored the value of wetlands in Brittany, France. While wetlands support several ecosystem services, like water purification, flood control and fishing, and act as a carbon sink, many such areas have been lost or are under threat. Project researchers explored ways to put a value on these services.
Further case studies included evaluating the quality of the natural landscape and rural vitality in the Dorna Valley in Romania and the value of Alpine landscapes in upper Slovenia.
PROVIDE project researchers also held 44 local workshops attracting a total of 200 people in the 13 participating countries and aiming to find better ways of boosting the involvement of people in agriculture and forestry’s provision of public goods.
‘Farm and forest land covers the vast majority of the EU’s land area and uses more than 70 % of Europe’s water resources,’ says Viaggi. ‘It is difficult to quantify the exact value of public goods from farming and forestry, but we estimate that they account for about one-third of the value of agricultural production, and around one-third of common agricultural policy expenditure.’
The project’s results are now being actively used by a network of more than 200 people, including public administration authorities, farmers, NGOs and citizens, as well as by the European Commission. The results are expected to be used during the upcoming reform of the EU’s common agricultural policy.