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Relationship between farmers’ perception of sustainability and future farming strategies: A commodity-level comparison

1 Faculty of Business Economics, Hasselt University, Hasselt, Belgium
2 Department of Engineering Management, Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
3 Countryside and Community Research Institute, University of Gloucestershire, Gloucester, UK
4 Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Agricultural University of Athens, Athens, Greece

The environmental challenges have become increasingly integrated into the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The Europe 2020 CAP Framework defines new rules for farmers and targets on innovation, resource efficiency, economic viability, and environmental sustainability. Given the continual evolution of the CAP, it is relevant to focus on sustainable agriculture and which indicators can be employed to aid our understanding of the future farming strategies. This study examines the relationship between perceived sustainability and future farming strategies for three different commodities: sugar beet, dairy, and feta cheese. Survey data collected between 2017–2018 from 191 Belgian sugar beet farmers, 524 dairy farmers (from UK, Denmark, France, and Latvia), and 150 Greek sheep and goat farmers producing milk for feta cheese were analysed using multinomial logistic regressions. Our results show that the farmers’ attitude towards sustainability affects intentions to implement specific farming strategies. Belgian sugar beet farmers who perceive their supply chain arrangements (SCAs) environmentally sustainable are less likely to reduce the scale of their farms’ operations rather than to maintain them. Dairy farmers are more likely to change the existing scale than to maintain scale if they perceive that production choices affect environmental sustainability to a higher extent. Dairy farmers who perceive their SCAs economically sustainable are less likely to abandon farming. Greek sheep and goat farmers who perceive their SCAs economically sustainable are more likely to expand the existing scale. The observed differences at commodity-level show the importance of well targeted policy measures towards more sustainable farming systems in the European Union.
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