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Modelling INdividual Decisions to Support The European Policies related to agriculture

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MIND STEP (Modelling INdividual Decisions to Support The European Policies related to agriculture)

Período documentado: 2021-07-01 hasta 2022-12-31

MIND STEP: Accounting for farm-level decision making in policy design and analysis

The Horizon 2020 project MIND STEP (Modelling INdividual Decisions to Support The European Policies related to agriculture) aims to support public decision making in agricultural, rural, environmental and climate policies taking into account the behaviour of individual decision making (IDM) units in agriculture and the rural society. MIND STEP especially focusses on the individual farmers as the IDM units of concern.
Policies related to agriculture are supposed to address an increasing number of objectives as demanded by society. As a result, agricultural policies, like the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), increase their scope to incorporate for example objectives of the Paris climate agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the same time the CAP will move further into the direction of farm specific measures and a stronger orientation towards objectives. Greater subsidiarity should change the ‘one size fits all’ approach in the current CAP. To facilitate this change, Member States are given more flexibility to develop their own CAP strategic plans, which should define measurable objectives and means to achieve them. Currently applied models used at the European Commission are not able to deliver impacts for individual farms or local impact as they are specified at higher levels of aggregation. They also struggle to analyse policies specific to the individual farmer or for which interaction between farms and with other agents are crucial for policy outcomes.
The wider scope and the particular focus on measures targeting individual farmers ask for a new generation of impact assessment tools. Improved and more realistic impact assessment is crucial for more targeted and efficient designs of policies measures that help guaranteeing the well-being of farmers and the environment, while ensuring the availability of high quality, healthy food for the population. These aspects are of substantial concerns for the society as a whole, in the European Union and around the world. The new tools should comprehensively inform policy-makers and other stakeholders on impacts of the CAP on IDM units and on other policies related to agriculture, both ex-ante and ex-post. In impact evaluations, much more attention has to be paid to the way the CAP is locally and regionally implemented. Regional authorities need tools, and the EU needs to take local and regional conditions and policies into account in evaluating its policies.
The leading objective of MIND STEP is therefore to support public decision making in agricultural, rural, environmental and climate policies by taking into account the behaviour of IDM units in agriculture and the rural society. New models will not only capture the decision making processes of individual farmers but also their interactions with each other and the environment. Linking such new IDM models with currently applied models used at the European Commission will not only improve the consistency but also broaden the scope of policy analyses and impact assessment for efficient policy design.
MIND STEP’s overarching technical goal is to develop a modular and customisable suite of IDM models with focus on the behaviour and technological options of individual farmers, their interactions among each other and with other actors along the food- and non-food value chains. This is the so-called MIND STEP model toolbox. The application of this IDM-centred toolbox is governed by a conceptual framework developed during the first reporting period of the MIND STEP project with involvement of the MIND STEP core stakeholder group of ten persons around Europe from industry, government and research. A major result is the identification of relevant thematic areas for model-based analyses, the indicators that should be used to measure the impact of policies within these thematic areas, and the models that should be applied in the respective contexts.
At the same time, MIND STEP developed protocols for the exploitation of data sources and the combined use of new and established models in a modular fashion. In particular the concept of modularity for the design of the MIND STEP toolbox has received substantial attention during the first reporting period as it is crucial for the combined use of rather complex analytical tools in different contexts. The addressed challenges in this area were, among others, to define basic functionalities of the core bio-economic farm model (BEFM), to facilitate and regulate the communication of the involved researchers, establishing standards for computer codes/interfaces between individual models in the MIND STEP model toolbox, quality management and data exchange and developing a prototype for a wrapper function that permits the execution of the different models from a programming environment that is familiar to the majority of researchers. In addition to the progress on the software-side of MIND STEP, it was also possible to set up the needed hardware infrastructure, namely to ensure that the developers can make use of version-control systems and continued integration facilities on a dedicated server, as well as to provide an interface for data exchange and download. Based on these achievements, the MIND STEP project will continue to establish the required links between the models and to test the plausibility and robustness of results and the performance of the computational environment. The most recent activities and findings are continuously published and linked on the MIND STEP homepage, which was also created during the first reporting period:
The MIND STEP project offers the unique opportunity to include a new set of IDM models into currently used models and to develop targeted complementary tools. Improved micro-economic underpinning of the current models solves some of their most critical limitations and main weaknesses and allows consistency in impact assessment at different levels of aggregation of policies related to agriculture, taking into account mutual interdependencies between IDM units in the farming sector and the overall economy. The integration of new and established models is based on principles of modular software design and therefore easier to expand and adjust than ad-hoc model combinations. The MIND STEP model toolbox will permit improving the capacity to model policies dealing with agriculture and related natural resources, food and international trade. In particular the design of innovative policies and assessment of their potential impacts will be greatly facilitated and help policy makers to develop targeted measures to achieve the environmental and societal goals in EU-wide and national contexts. The heterogeneous composition of the MIND STEP consortium, consisting of researchers from various disciplines, and the core MIND STEP stakeholder group, in combination with the requirement to integrate the different quantitative approaches within a toolbox, will strengthen transdisciplinary research and provide the needed scientific support for relevant EU policies and priorities. Figure 1 visualizes the intended integration of the MIND STEP model toolbox, centred around models of individual decision making, into the policy making process at EU level, highlighting some of the targeted policy programmes like the Farm-to-fork Strategy or Europe’s Green Deal.