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Provision of public goods by EU agriculture and forestry: Putting the concept into practice

Specific challenge:Traditionally, agricultural and forestry activities have been the provider of manifold – often underappreciated – public goods including ecosystem services. In view of the expected rise in primary production and more intensive production methods, the provision of public goods by agriculture and forestry is threatened, the more since these are considered to be 'non-excludable', 'non-rival' and therefore without market value. Although the term 'public goods' is widely used, the concept lacks an operational framework and a common understanding as regards the wider societal and non-market benefits of agriculture and forestry activities – in particular in the context of dynamic changes in land use and farming systems. Thorough evidence on the nature, extent and function of public goods provided by agriculture and forestry – including those of global nature - is required to identify demand as well as to create effective incentives and policy options for their continued provision.

Scope:Proposals should develop a systematic and operational framework to map, characterize and quantify the variety of public goods provided by agricultural and forestry ecosystems throughout Europe. This will include identifying links between economic activities in the primary production sectors and the delivery of public goods (including conflicting demands) as well as important 'disservices' of agriculture resulting in trade-offs as regards the provision of public goods. Proposals should take into account various temporal and spatial scales, different types of cropping, husbandry and forest management systems as well as the diversity and dynamics of climatic, natural, cultural and socio-economic conditions all over the EU. Furthermore, proposals should consider ways in which to valorise and establish effective support measures (policies, incentives, public services) for the delivery of public goods in response to societal expectations. Information and dissemination activities should target a wide range of stakeholders including from policy making, the farming and forestry sectors and allow for their active participation.  

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the range of EUR 2–3 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected impact:

  • increased understanding of  the nature of management and other processes that influence the delivery of public goods by different types of farming and forestry systems in Europe (e.g. by means of a solid inventory)
  • development of robust mechanisms and tools for a) measuring and valorising public goods (including in terms of value streams, as relevant) as well as for b) establishing the contributions of the agricultural and forestry sectors to the sustained delivery of these goods
  • formulation of appropriate policies, incentives, service models and win-win scenarios to reduce conflicts between productivity objectives in primary production and the delivery of ecosystems services and other public goods
  • overall, increased sustainability of primary production by reducing the negative impacts and enhancing the positive contributions of the agriculture and forestry sectors to public goods

Type of action: Research and innovation actions