SAC # 38: Exploring farmersí cultural resistance to agri-environmental policy in Europe



26 July 2007, 4- 5:30pm


Room 3 N 4 in the Richardson Building. PLEASE NOTE: this differs from the usual venue.


Rob Burton, AgResearch


In Europe the uptake of voluntary agri-environmental schemes has been a central plank of EU policy for encouraging farmers to become more conservationist in their approaches to farming. Unfortunately evidence continues to emerge from across Europe that it is meeting with very limited success in terms of changing farmers? attitudes to the environment. Farmers, on the whole, remain steadfastly productivist in thought. This presentation examines a possible explanation for this phenomena. It suggests that conventional production activities enable farmers to display embodied cultural capital (farming skill) which, in turn, generate peer- and self-esteem and strengthens networks of social capital. Voluntary agri-environmental schemes only subsidise farmers for economic capital foregone (a GATT requirement), and do not compensate for the loss of other forms of capital. In addition, for conservation work management requirements are often prescribed by government (another GATT requirement) limiting the extent to which farmers can innovate and thus use their own skills to enhance their conservation areas. This limits the extent to which conservation actions can become culturally embodied within the farming community. The presentation concludes by suggesting ways in which voluntary agri-environmental schemes could be improved to promote the development of a more environmentalist farming culture in Europe.

About the Speaker

Rob is a geographer and home-grown Dunedinite returning home after spending 14 years in the UK. After completing a Masters degree in Geography at the University of Otago he headed off to Europe for 6 months and never quite made it back again. Following the completion of a PhD and a couple of post-docs he spent the last 7 years working in Aberdeen Scotland. Rob?s research interests lie in studying concepts of culture and identity in farming communities. His recent work has focused on how symbolic/cultural capital is generated through conventional agricultural activities and how this can influence farmers? uptake of more environmentally friendly forms of farming.