Investigating the impact of proposed CAP reforms on farmers’ behaviour

With a budget of Euro 362.8bn for 2014 -2020, the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is the single largest common policy across the EU. An outline agreement of CAP reforms post 2014 was agreed at the June 2013 Agricultural Council and the objective of this research was to:

  • explore stakeholder views on possible responses to CAP measures (or combination of measures) by farmers in England, and
  • use the resulting insights to identify possible risks for implementation of the CAP reforms in England.

After identifying which of the proposed reforms were most likely to have an impact on the farming industry through a stakeholder workshop, focus groups and telephone interviews with farmers and their agents or advisers were conducted to generate insights into the possible impact of the new measures. As the CAP reforms have not yet been implemented, it was understood that the research could only offer qualitative insights into possible farmer behaviours, based on participants’ views of their likely responses. The farmers were selected from different sectors (arable, upland and dairy).

Whilst it was noted that the participants’ views of future behaviours may not accurately predict actual future behaviour, the most significant finding from this research is the extent to which advisors and farmers who participated in the research indicated there might be tactical changes in farmers’ behaviours to mitigate the effect of CAP reforms. In many cases this was predicted by participants to be benign, for example annual land swaps to maintain productive land in cropping, although there may be challenges for implementation of the reforms. However, in other cases participants believed that the impact may be more significant, in socio-economic and environmental terms.

ADAS and the CCRI made a number of recommendations to Defra to address the issues raised in this research. These included,

  1. Ensure that the potential environmental benefits of the greening measures are communicated clearly to farmers. Early clarification of the rules may help to avoid unnecessary actions and costs for farmers and limit negative impacts.
  2. Provide support and advice to farmers on how they can comply with the CAP measures through adapting existing farming systems sustainably and cost-effectively.
  3. Scope the opportunities for synergy and conflict between the CAP reform measures and the introduction of New Environmental Land Management Scheme (NELMS) and ensure close liaison between Defra and its agencies in promoting desired outcomes.
  4. Consider the drivers of exit/entry to farming and how the Young Farmer scheme might be used to best effect, including looking at other policies which represent barriers to uptake.

The research was led by ADAS with CCRI input from Jane Mills who was assisted by Pete Gaskell.

The full research report can be downloaded here