Press Releases, Policy&Business Briefs and Short Communications

Press Releases, Policy Briefs, Business Briefs and Short Communications will be issued throughout the project to bring readers closer to relevant research in SURE-Farm and suggest possible policy options and business strategies. 

Policy brief with a critical analysis of how current policies constrain/enable resilient EU agriculture

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union is essential to enhance the resilience of Europe’s farming systems along three capacities: robustness, adaptability and transformability. The SURE-Farm project conducted the first systematic assessment how the CAP performs in this regard. The findings show that hitherto the CAP has been overly focused on supporting the robustness of an increasingly fragile status quo, with uneven effects, while neglecting adaptability and even constraining transformability. The future CAP needs to allow for a better balance with policy mixes that are tailored to regional needs, based on a shared long-term vision. This implies replacing direct payments with measures that specifically address resilience needs, e.g. points-based eco-schemes, agro-environmental programs, coordinated adaptation to shifting markets, ample support for cross-sectoral cooperation, innovation and advice to integrate production and provision of public goods, and participatory and integrative foresight to develop transformation pathways.

Policy Brief. Policy options for resilience enhancing farm demographics

European agriculture as well as the wider economy face substantial demographic changes in the upcoming decades. The baby boomer generation will retire within the next 10 to 15 years and the cohorts of the young generations which will enter the labour market in the next decades are much smaller in size. Accordingly, the farming sector will have to compete with other sectors and urban areas which offer attractive career prospects. The SURE-Farm project seeks to better understand the sustainability and resilience of European farming systems, including the challenges related to farm demographics and what this means for structural change. This policy brief aims to tie the findings of SURE-Farm on farm demographics with policy options which may enable resilient farm structures.

Business Brief on shifting the focus from “more” to “more successful” generational renewal

One important longer-term building-block of a farming system’s resilience is generational renewal. Vice versa, farming systems are only attractive for the younger generation to enter if they offer long-term prospects. Within the EU, regional farming systems differ enormously with regard to their organisational and demographic characteristics, their production systems, and their local natural, institutional, and infrastructural conditions. Accordingly, generational renewal is multifaceted and related to many different issues, such as whether and how farms should organise farm succession, how farms can ensure the availability of a sufficient labour force, how they can adapt to and prepare for generational and demographic changes, and how the younger generation can benefit from the training and employment opportunities in the farming sector. Fuelled by key findings of the SURE-Farm project, the aim of this business brief is to raise awareness among farmers and stakeholders of opportunities and challenges related to the various aspects of generational renewal.

Policy brief on future farm demographics and structural change in selected regions of the EU

Farm demographics has been recognized as an important driver of structural change in European agriculture. Focus groups and computer simulations on farm demographic change were used to better understand its role for the case study regions of the Altmark in the eastern part of Germany and Flanders in the northern part of Belgium. According to these analyses, many potential agricultural entrants are deterred by what they view as a poor quality of life that farming offers. This applies to farm successors as well as hired workers. For higher attractiveness of agriculture, policy objectives should address the social image of farming as well as revitalize rural areas. Increasingly critical is the demand for skilled hired labour. However, policies dealing with farm demographic change ignore these needs and focus almost exclusively on farm succession. Particularly, the direct payment system, including additional support for small farms and young farmers, must be re-evaluated for its effectiveness. The analyses provide evidence that this system constrains European agricultural development more than assists it; ultimately preventing farms from adapting and transforming.

Business Brief on opportunities for improved risk management for EU agriculture

EU farming systems are facing increasing economic, social, environmental and institutional challenges. Finding the opportunities to improve risk management contributes to enhancing the farming systems’ resilience. Based on the participation of a wide variety of stakeholders across European agricultural sectors, four main avenues to improve risk management are proposed: 1) Useful, accessible and well-structured information; 2) Professional, adapted and widespread training and advice and boosted knowledge transfer; 3) Developing and spreading new forms of cooperation among farming system actors; and 4) New/ improved products and services adapted to current and future needs of the farming systems. Not only farmers, farmers’ households and associations but also value chain actors, financial institutions, NGOs and public administration are encouraged to be part of the opportunities to improve risk management towards resilient farming systems.

Policy brief on farmer adaptive behaviour and risk management in EU agriculture

Risk and risk management are essential elements of agriculture and affect the wellbeing of farm households. Farmers react to production, market and institutional risks and challenges by taking measures on or off the farm. Such risk management measures are often costly and have implications for up- and downstream industries as well as the environment. The risk exposure of European farms is increasing. For example, climate change will increase the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events like droughts, heatwaves and heavy rainfalls that potentially have detrimental effects on agricultural production. Thus, the adaptive capacity and risk management options in European agriculture need to be improved. Policy shall support this process. Policies are needed to support a diversity of risk management solutions and not only focus on a few solutions. Strategies to cope with risk often go beyond the level of the individual farm. Cooperation, learning and sharing of risks play a vital role in European agriculture and shall be strengthened. Thus, coordinated policies targeting beyond the individual farm and considering all the stakeholders involved in the risk management strategies are needed to ensure their effective implementation. Moreover, policies need to facilitate to take full advantage of the rapid technological progress and improved data availability (e.g. based on satellite imagery) to develop a wider set of risk management strategies.

Policy Brief on farm demographics and impacts on farm structure

For a resilient farming system, smooth and sufficient intergenerational renewal is crucial, and it has been defined as one of nine goals for the CAP post-2020. Before implementing specific policy measures and instruments, however, policy makers must determine the degree and nature of the generational renewal problem that needs to be addressed. Also, policies need to focus on increasing the attractiveness of farming as an occupation and lifestyle, as many non-entry decisions are made before measures aimed at the young farmer start to play a role. Further policy directions include increasing the mobility of land and labour, supporting the management of extreme calamities as they involve a great risk of exit and non-entry and facilitating the provision of personal and farm-specific advice and coaching. The power and responsibility of national and regional governments to address these issues is often underestimated and overlooked.

Farm demographic and structural change across Europe

At the EU-wide level, there is a constant decrease in the number of farms, an increase in average farm size and a decrease of overall work force in agriculture. Farms tend to become more specialized, and family farms dominate the EU agricultural landscape. Besides that, the share of older farmers is increasing while the share of young farmers is decreasing. However, a study across a diversity of European farming systems shows that these general trends and their future direction depend on regional specificities related to agro-ecological zoning, socio-economic characteristics, environmental challenges, institutional and cultural embedding and embedding in the value chain. The obtained similarities/contrasts in sector and regional specificities from the cross case-study comparison should allow to learn from differences and inspire local government to tailor their policies to specific situations.

Policy Brief on Resilience Framework

To achieve its objectives in a changing world, the Common Agricultural Policy needs to put the resilience of Europe’s farming systems at its center. The current CAP focuses on making the farming community more robust against shocks in the short run. However, a broader view on resilience is needed to ensure a sustainable agricultural sector in the longer term. This new vision should pay sufficient attention to developing the capacities of both individual farms and farming systems to adapt to changing circumstances and to transform their business models where necessary to maintain the delivery of food, fiber, energy and public goods in the long run.

Press Release on Resilience Framework

A resilience-oriented CAP needs to address robustness, adaptability and transformability of agriculture Resilience of the agricultural sector is an important aim of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Most often, resilience is focused on stimulating robustness, with policy and market instruments aimed at maintaining the stability of the farm business. However, a group of European scientists argues that this is too narrow a way of looking at resilience. They state that while robustness contributes to agricultural development, the current higher risk environment also requires other types of capacity in food and agribusiness: namely adaptability and transformability. Translated into 11 languages in https://surefarmproject.eu/press-release-on-resilience-framework/