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The Role of Farmers' Understanding of Nature in Shaping their Uptake of Nature Protection Measures

Nataliya Stupak, Jürn Sanders, Barbara Heinrich
Ecological economics 2019 v.157 pp. 301-311
agri-environmental policy, case studies, cover crops, environmental impact, farmers, farmers' attitudes, governance, Germany
This paper investigates how farmers' understanding of nature and its protection influences their decisions on the uptake of nature protection measures, including agri-environmental (AEM) and greening measures. It aims to answer two research questions: (1) How do agricultural producers understand nature and nature protection? and (2) How does producers' understanding of nature influence their decisions on and choices of nature protection measures? Taking an institutional economics approach to behaviour, we scrutinise if and to what extend the objectives and beliefs constituting a reason for action incorporate nature-related considerations. The results generated by a case study in Lower Saxony (Germany) suggest that distinct understanding of nature and nature protection are a constituent of farmers' decisions on nature protection measures. Producers doubt the positive nature-related effects of some agri-environmental and greening measures whose design does not correspond to the central aspects of their understanding of nature. They prefer implementing measures of their own design and on own initiative to participation in AEM, and choose to cultivate cover crops with apparent environmental effects to fulfil the greening requirements. The enhancement of nature protection in agriculture requires improvement in advisory services to farmers and the revision of the governance of nature protection in agriculture.