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Types of interaction between economy, rural society, environment and agricultural activities in European regions

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Agriculture's bigger picture

A more holistic view of different elements linked to agriculture, such as environmental and socioeconomic considerations, can illuminate future directions for Europe's diverse agricultural regions.

Climate Change and Environment

Accurately outlining the bigger picture that properly defines agriculture by considering economy and environment helps governments design better policies to improve social well-being and rural development. The EU-funded project 'Types of interaction between economy, rural society, environment and agricultural activities in European regions' (Teresa) aimed to articulate this definition. There are many interactions and interdependencies among different aspects related to agriculture, not least being socioeconomic ones that affect rural development. The Teresa project worked diligently on outlining integration of different agricultural structures in regional contexts. It did this on the premise that integration brings stakeholders closer, including society and farmers, offering a more streamlined supply chain, improved diversification and better pluriactivity ('regrounding'). The latter, for example, enables farmers to produce more income by linking with other rural stakeholders. In effect, Teresa linked demand, supply and multifunctionality with regional cooperation to enhance sustainable development in rural areas. It accomplished its goals by conducting a cluster analysis of European regions and their supply chains in order to identify specific regional needs. The project outlined regions that lagged behind agriculturally, differentiating between more rural 'stand-alone agricultural regions' with traditional yet important agriculture and 'regions in transition' that involve secondary and tertiary activities. Another important type differentiated was 'side-by-side regions', i.e. those that are doing well economically but with a low level of farming integration. Overall, the project found that interaction between function and decision rules plays an important role regarding the resilience and robustness of agricultural supply chains. It also concluded that strong, organised interaction allows a system to handle stresses much better. These findings and many others can help articulate policy for a stronger agricultural sector and outline a direction for weaker agricultural regions, supporting rural development and promoting sustainability.

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