Braito, Michael, Heidi Leonhardt, Marianne Penker, Elisabeth Schauppenlehner-Kloyber, Georg Thaler, & Courtney G. Flint (2020, December, in press). The plurality of farmers’ views on soil management calls for a policy mix. Land Use Policy, 99, art. 104876. (doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2020.104876) (Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264837719319829?via%3Dihub)

Abstract: While soil degradation is continuing to threaten the global agricultural production system, a common understanding of how to encourage sustainable soil management is missing. With this study, we aim to provide new insights on targeted policies that address the heterogeneity of farmers. We scrutinized the plurality of views on soil management among arable farmers in the Austrian (and European) policy context. To do so, we applied Q methodology, a method that identifies different perspectives on a topic present in a population and analyzes this subjectivity statistically. We interviewed 34 arable land farmers who varied in their farming backgrounds. The results yielded four different viewpoints on soil management held by the interviewed farmers: two rather eco-centric perspectives (Nature Participants, Pleasure Seekers) and two rather anthropocentric perspectives (Traditional Food Providers, Profit Maximizers). Our study shows that farmers’ soil management is influenced by more than economic considerations and suggests that a mix of policy approaches is needed to reach all farmers and avoid adverse effects of excluding farmers. We provide several suggestions for policymakers on how to complement agri-environmental policies: appealing to human-nature relationships, offering training and experimentation services, fostering social networks, and raising the social reputation of farmers.

Courtney G Flint <courtney.flint@usu.edu> is in the Department of Sociology, Social Work & Anthropology, Utah State University, Logan, UT, USA.

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