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Farmers

    Farmers do the concrete work in agriculture. The choices they make have a significant impact on biodiversity, recreational use and agricultural nutrient loading. What choices do the farmers have and how common is it to consider environmental issues?

     

    Current situation

    Over 90% of Finnish farmers are involved in the agri-enviromental support scheme. It is by far the biggest percentage in Europe. This diverse group of farmers include those who care about the environment and those who do not. It is a mistake to generalise all farmers into one homogeneous group.

    Finnish agriculture produces around 80% of all food consumed in Finland. In 2008 there were around 65 800 farms in Finland. The group of farmers is a very diverse one. The farms vary from large to small, there is biodynamic, organic and intensive farming, those who feel farming is a calling for them, those who do it only to bring in the bread and those who work mainly outside the farm. This group cannot therefore be expected to always make the same decisions.

    When over  90% of Finnish farmers are committed to the agri-enviromental support scheme and the results still are not satisfactory, it is obvious there is serious need to examine why this is.

    Farmers do not  have enough knowledge of the effects of the agri-environmental measures and so are not necessarily motivated to implement them. On the other hand others are very keen to protect their nearby environment and use these measures to do so. Generalisations about farmer’s interest towards environmental issues are impossible.

    What is common to all farmers is that they are confused and tired of uncertainty of all the different research results. These results have been contradictory and this causes frustration among the farmers.

    The amount of paper work needed for receiving subsidies with constant changes to the rules and uncertainties involved are affecting the motivation of famers. Their work has become so controlled that additional obligations feel like a burden, even if there is will to protect the environment.

    We have to remember that other countries receive subsidies as well. A Dutch farmer receives the highest subsidies in Europe. Fertilizers are used in other countries as well (many use more than in Finland) and the environment suffers from intensive farming everywhere.


    Goals

    In order to improve the state of the environment the society should:

    - set clearer goals for the entire agri-environmental support scheme
    - increase advisory services on subsidies and measures
    - change attitudes through education
    - develop and impellent clear indicators for the impacts of agri-environmental measures
    - give farmers clear answers about conflicting issues

    This would give farmers a clear understanding of what needs to be done for the environment. Some farmers are already very environmentally conscious, just as in other professions. How to get all citizens environmentally conscious – that is a more difficult question  concerning our values.
     


    To do

    To achieve the goals, we must:

    - Include farmers in planning the agri-environmental support scheme
    - Direct more resources into environmental advisory services
    - Create a support system that encourages farmers to make environmentally friendly choices
    create new ways of operating where farmers can themselves be more actively influencing what measures are done in the villages they live, in cooperating with neighbours and families
    - Create new ways of operating where farmers can themselves be more actively influencing what measures are done in the villages they live, in cooperating with neighbours and families