Simulating the diffusion of organic farming practices in two New EU Member States
Agriculture continues to be a major contributor to water pollution, climate change and loss of biodiversity although policies to encourage farmers to work to higher sustainability standards in food and energy crop production have increased throughout the European Union. In New Member States, accession to the European Union mostly brought a substantially increased public support to foster the diffusion of certified organic farming. However, the take-up of organic farming is varied for reasons that are not yet well understood. In this paper, we analyse the diffusion of organic farming through farm populations. This involves an understanding of farmer behaviour and how it can change over time. We present a generic agent based model that builds on the Theory of Planned Behaviour as framework for understanding and modelling farmers' decision-making processes. The model is applied to high-diffusion regions in two New EU Member States, Latvia and Estonia. The values for the model's parameters are informed by survey data. The model reproduces the interdependence of social influence and economic factors. Social influence alone is shown to make little difference to the model dynamics; organic farmers remain organic, and conventional farmers remain conventional. Introducing a change to the environment (e.g. a subsidy) results in an increase in the proportion of adopters. Thus, economic factors appear to be more influential than social factors. However, only when allowing for both, the subsidy and social influence, do we reveal the whole picture and the combined adoption rate is higher than the sum of the proportion of adopters resulting from just social influence (without a subsidy) and from just a subsidy (without social influence). We also compare the effect of the subsidy with the effect of influence from organic farm advisors to develop policy recommendations.
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