Research design

New research shows how to include more farmers in the design of new environmental policies | Institute for Sustainable Food

  • Study highlights the need for skilled intermediaries to support farmers in the post-Brexit agricultural transition and help mitigate the impact of Covid-19
  • Researchers have made recommendations on how policy makers can improve methods of engagement, including internet connectivity and accessible resources
  • The research was carried out by the University of Sheffield, in partnership with the University of Reading

A paper released today (March 30, 2022) explores how government policymakers can include a wide range of farmers in the design of new Environmental Land Management (ELM) programs, using different engagement strategies to work with people who may be harder to reach.

The research, led by Dr Ruth Little from the University of Sheffield’s Geography Department, found there are multiple reasons why farmers might be reluctant to engage with policy makers.

These include negative past experiences, lack of time, lack of interest, as well as the perceived bureaucracy of the system, age, lack of trust and poor access to internet.

The researchers presented a series of recommendations on how policy makers can improve engagement methods so that a wide range of farmers can be included in the design of new policies for agriculture and the environment.

These include improving rural broadband, working with people you trust, ensuring that engagement benefits farmers, and ensuring that forms of engagement such as written consultations are accessible to people with disabilities and limited free time.

The recommendations apply not only to the UK, but also to other countries planning similar changes to environmental policies on farmland.

The researchers also found that farmers are more likely to support and implement new policies on their farms if policy makers include a wider range of farmers in the design of new environmental policies, concluding that this will help bring benefits. benefits to the environment.

Dr Ruth Little, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography and Fellow of the Institute for Sustainable Food, said: “This is the biggest change in agricultural policy in more than a generation. ELM could be transformational in terms of rewarding farmers for producing environmental benefits; but it must be well designed to ensure agricultural sustainability in terms of economic, social and environmental gains. Our research provides important insights to make the development of ELM as inclusive as possible, to ensure a sustainable future for both agriculture and the environment.”

Dr David Rose, Associate Professor at the University of Reading, who led the writing of the article published today, said: “The latest figures suggest that 39% of farmers do not understand Defra’s future vision, 54% lack the right information for business planning, and 47% of farms are not optimistic about their future in farming. Our research provides concrete action for Defra on how to help the ‘hardest to reach’ farmers who are perhaps the least confident about their future and who know the least about how to successfully transition. »

Dr Paul Hurley, senior researcher at the University of Southampton and lead author of the project’s reports and manuscript, said: ‘The research has identified the value of engaging and listening to a wide range of people. farmers, and the dangers of not doing so. . In a landscape of uncertainty – Covid-19, Brexit, climate emergency and geopolitical tensions – we have seen how important it is for policy makers to get it right, for current and future generations and for environmental sustainability.

Jessica Lyon, environmental policy consultant at ICF and former research associate at the University of Sheffield, and lead author of the project’s reports and manuscript, said: “Defra’s commitment to involving farmers in the Agricultural policy development is commendable, but time and resources are needed to ensure wide-ranging engagement.

“Online digital platforms are an example of a tool that can increase levels of engagement for some, but is a barrier for those with poor internet connectivity and less confidence with digital platforms. Care must be taken here to that some are not left behind during this period of agricultural transition.”

Read the entire paper