Costs and benefits of on-farm nature conservation

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The costs of on-farm nature conservation is an important issue in Dutch agriculture. As nature is a public good, nature conservation cannot do without subsidies from the government. The question of how much farmers should receive in subsidies in order to keep farms engaged in conservation activities is highly topical. In this article, the questions of how much farmers should receive in subsidies and what other factors motivate or demotivate farmers to participate in on-farm nature conservation are addressed. The study was carried out for a particular region in the northern Netherlands and was initiated by the concerns that farmers organisations had about the level of subsidies for landscape conservation as a major form of nature conservation on dairy farms in this region. In this study, both a normative model and a survey were employed. A normative economic dairy farm model was first used to determine differences in income between a typical farm involved in landscape conservation and a typical farm not involved in landscape conservation. Results from the model show that the farm involved in conservation earned a lower income than the farm not involved in conservation. This was due to the first farmer's smaller scale, lower intensity and lower productivity. The lower income, however, was compensated for by conservation subsidies. Next, a survey concerning on-farm nature conservation in general was carried out among the farmers in this area. From the survey results, it appeared that the majority of the respondents were satisfied, at least to some extent, with the level of subsidies for on-farm nature conservation. Moreover, the survey also revealed that the farmers' commitment to their natural environment strongly motivates farmers to get involved in on-farm nature conservation schemes, whereas the uncertainty about regulations and the feeling of being controlled too much demotivate them. The results show the complementarity of the two methods. The findings of the survey confirm the main findings of the normative model calculations, and, moreover, the survey reveals that in addition to monetary compensation, other factors play a role for farmers in the decision to get involved in on-farm nature conservation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-579
JournalEcological Economics
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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