Photo of a farmer in a field taken by the project team.

By David Rose, Paul Hurley, Jessica Lyon, Jilly Hall, Ruth Little, Judith Tsouvalis, and Veronica White.

Read the full article here.

Governments around the world are developing policies to increase the amount of food we produce, whilst also protecting wildlife and rivers and reducing carbon emissions. These policies need farmers to support them so that the policies are put into practice on large areas of farmland. After the UK left the European Union, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are developing new schemes to support the environment on farmland. In England, the government has committed to including farmers in the design of these new schemes.

Our research looks at how government policy-makers can include a wide range of farmers in the design of new schemes, using different engagement strategies to reach individuals who may be ‘harder to reach’ (i.e. not just the ‘usual suspects’ who are good at engaging with government). We find that there are a number of reasons why farmers might be reluctant to engage with policy-makers; for example, bad past experiences, lack of time, lack of interest, perceived scheme bureaucracy, age, lack of trust, and bad internet access. We outline a series of recommendations for how policymakers can improve methods of engagement so that a wide range of farmers can be included in the design of new policies for the agri-environment.

These include improving rural broadband, working with trusted people, ensuring that engagement benefits farmers, and making sure forms of engagement like written consultations are accessible to those with disabilities and limited free time. These recommendations apply to England, the rest of the UK, and the world, as lots of other countries are also planning similar changes to environmental policies on farmland. The more that policymakers can include a range of farmers in the design of new environmental policies, the more likely farmers are to support them and implement them on their farms. This will help deliver benefits to the environment.