New research suggests farmers have key environmental role

New research by a University agricultural economist suggests the UK should give more weight to environmental concerns in its farmland use policy.

Professor Rob Fraser argues in a new book looking at the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that the UK should pursue an objective of ‘better protection of nature’ over food and energy security objectives as it frames its land use policy beyond 2020.

The book, titled Applications of Principal-Agent Theory to Agricultural Land Use Policy Lessons from the European Union (Imperial College Press) reviews how greater awareness that agricultural land use policy could deliver environmental benefits led to changes in the EU’s CAP.

These changes, from a ‘competitiveness’ agenda to one of ‘sustainability’, saw the EU develop a policy which saw farmers as ‘environmental stewards”. These environmental stewards were charged with the task of managing their agricultural land to provide environmental goods and services for society, and moreover being appropriately remunerated for this provision within the CAP’s budget.

Professor Fraser’s research suggests that the UK already has substantial levels of imported food and energy – what economists define as ‘traded goods’. However environmental goods and services provided on agricultural land are what economists define as ‘non-traded goods (and services)’ – in other words, they are provided by farmers in situ in the agricultural landscape and cannot be imported.

Professor Fraser is Professor of Agricultural Economics within the University’s School of Economics.