The provision of public goods by agriculture: Critical questions for effective and efficient policy making

14-10-2013 | Publication

Agriculture produces both marketable and public goods, such as landscape and farmland biodiversity. The provision of these public goods is often under pressure as a result of various developments, such as the intensification of agriculture. Governments may enhance the delivery of such public goods through targeted payments, but require specific information for an optimal outcome. The PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency has assessed what type of information would be needed.

An optimal level of delivery of public goods depends on both demand (from society) and supply (usually by farmers). Both supply and demand may change over time. For example, up to 50 years ago, the presence of meadow birds was perceived as an agricultural by-product, but because of the intensification of agriculture, governments now pay farmers to safeguard the survival of these birds. In order to know both supply and demand of public goods, high-quality, spatially explicit information is needed. This paper offers a conceptual framework within which the required information can be determined. An alternative way of matching supply and demand would be an interactive approach involving scientists, stakeholders (including farmers), policymakers and politicians.