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Analysing the role of factors affecting farmers’ decisions to continue with agri-environmental schemes from a temporal perspective

Gatto, Paola, Mozzato, Daniele, Defrancesco, Edi
Environmental science & policy 2019 v.92 pp. 237-244
agri-environmental policy, attitudes and opinions, conservation buffers, ecosystem services, environmental science, farmers, farms, models, motivation, rural development, social factors, sociodemographic characteristics, temporal variation, Italy
The need to assess the impact of agri-environmental schemes from a long-term perspective has cast light on the temporal dynamics of farmer participation over the duration of single contracts. This assessment would help to better target and tailor schemes and achieve more persistent environmental benefits. This issue is addressed by considering the interplay of time, policy changes and background factors on farmers’ decisions. The farm, the farmer’s socio-demographic characteristics, attitudes and motivations, and social and informational factors were considered among the background factors, according to the theory of reasoned action and planned behaviour. A discrete-time duration model, i.e. the only approach that allows the full consideration of the effects of time and the dynamics of background factors in the continuation of agri-environmental schemes, was estimated. The analysis was based on a longitudinal sample of farmers located in the Veneto region of Italy who have adopted a specific scheme, i.e., plantation and/or maintenance of hedgerows and buffer strips, for at least one contract period within a time span of eighteen years (2000–2017). The results highlight that a farmer’s continuation of an agri-environmental scheme for a long period of time is the outcome of a mix of concurring factors, among which attitudes and motivations, as well as social factors, play important roles. The impact of these factors also evolves over time, with the effects of social pressure and neighbouring farms being the most important factors under recent policy rounds. These outcomes provide useful insights for rethinking policy design and information strategies for farmers in any new round of Rural Development Programmes.