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Policy analysis through community engagement

Final Report Summary - PATCE (Policy analysis through community engagement)

Project context and objectives

The implementation of the Water Directive framework (WDF) requires that water bodies across Europe be of 'good ecological status' by 2015. In many areas, including the United Kingdom (UK), this is likely to require changes to agricultural practices by way of reductions in the use of fertilisers, pesticides and changes to stocking rates. Policy compliance may make some farm enterprises unviable, necessitating change (e.g. livestock to cropping) or incur high enforcement costs.

The PATCE project utilised a policy tool (I3 Response framework), under development in Australia and New Zealand, to predict farmer response to agricultural policy in the UK. The Framework focuses on the concept of farmer 'involvement' with both a policy issue and policy intervention/s (regulations/s) as an indicator of likelihood for compliance within four groups (quadrants) identified by level of involvement.

Work performed

The Nitrogen Pollution Prevention Regulations 2008 (NPPR2008) offered an ideal opportunity to test the Framework. The Derwent Catchment, North Yorkshire was chosen as offering good representation of the farm types, and had been the focus of previous studies on the impact of policies for management of agricultural fertilisers. Two sets of interviews were carried out with farmers. The first set of interviews (14) explored farming context across dairy, beef and arable farming. The second set of interviews (33) explored farming practices and farmer attitudes to the regulations. The interview style was semi-structured and open, and farmers were invited to discuss economic and other consequences of the regulations for their farms, and to describe their planned responses.

A second objective was the collection of qualitative data on drivers of change for farmers' decision-making, for example understanding why farmers change farming types. Ultimately the testing of the Response Framework in this different political and social environment was seen as a step towards further developing a tool to assist in producing more effective policy.

Results

The PATCE project exposed a wide range of potential policy responses based on combinations of involvement with the policy issue (water quality) and the various NPPR2008 interventions. The generally low level of farmer involvement with the water quality exposed compliance issues for policymakers.

Farming type: Policy Intervention: Dairy

Limiting the application of organic and manufactured nitrogen (N):
Most farmers were highly involved with this intervention and held positive attitudes. They considered they could work within the restrictions posed. For a small proportion of farmers the livestock-manure-N farm limits were seen as an issue - these tended to be intensely farmed operations.

Closed periods for spreading nitrogen:
Most farmers were highly involved with this intervention. Attitudes were generally unfavourable due to the high dependence upon grass-based systems, and the expected additional costs associated with changes to pasture management. A source of frustration to many farmers was that the intervention ignored geographic climatic variability.

Requirements for storage for farmyard manure (FYM):
Most farmers were highly involved and held favourable attitudes. Existing practices of trading straw for FYM facilitated these attitudes.

Requirement for storage for slurry:
Most farmers were highly involved with this intervention, holding unfavourable attitudes due to the perceived net costs associated with this policy change. Age, family status, existing debt levels and farm profitability were factors considered by farmers when making decisions about how to proceed.

Conclusions

In the case study the Response Framework demonstrated its applicability as a useful tool to predict the behavioural responses of farmers to policy changes, and to understand factors influencing those responses.

In terms of the case study in the Derwent Catchment with NPPR2008 regulations, the Response Framework provided an opportunity to explore how changes in policy impacted on farming 'on the ground'. In some cases, farmers found it difficult to make changes to their practices within the current farming type (for example intensive beef and arable farmers with the FYM storage intervention) and this arose for most dairy farmers with the Closed Periods intervention.

Within the ChREAM project, policy interventions could be developed from existing policy objectives, and tested using the Response Framework. In this way, the framework would provide qualitative information on:

- the practicality of policy interventions for farmers;
- likely responses to policy interventions across farming types;
- the spread of responses within a farming type;
- the drivers for change in farming.

The ultimate value of the Response Framework is in determining likely responses to a particular policy intervention, and allowing policymakers to make judgements about the potential impact of the response and their need to take action.
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Contact:
Sandra Barns (sandra.barns@ew.govt.nz via e-mail)

Project website:
http://www.uea.ac.uk/env/cserge/research/relu/index