Understanding farmers' decision-making on agri-environmental schemes: A case study from Saxony, Germany

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftForschungsartikelBeigetragenBegutachtung



As one of the cornerstones of the European Common Agricultural Policy, agri-environmental schemes (AES) are compensating farmers for any additional costs or income foregone when implementing agri-environmental measures. However, until today, the uptake of AES remains below expectation. This paper aims to contribute to the analysis of why farmers do or do not adopt AES. It proposes a novel heuristic framework, derived from a qualitative content analysis of 14 semi-structured interviews with farmers from the Mulde River Basin (Saxony, Germany). Based on the empirical reconstruction of farmers' decision-making processes, the heuristic framework provides an analytical distinction between decision-making context, leeway in decision-making and decision -influ-encing factors. Using the heuristic framework, we observe a decision-making sequence: In the decision-making context - the first element of the decision-making process - farmers face specific farm characteristics and handle non-AES related land-use commitments and land-use decisions. Only if this context allows farmers to devote land to AES, can they explore the funding and technical availability of individual AES - the second element of the decision-making process. Where farmers have such leeway in decision-making, actual decision -influencing factors - the third element of the decision-making process -such as economic, administrative or legal factors become relevant. We find that farmers' AES adoption can only be increased by better understanding the restrictions farmers face along the decision-making process. The sequence and practical meaning of decision -making elements is crucial to understand how farmers make acreage-by-acreage decisions with regard to AES. In specific constellations, economic incentives and administrative factors of AES may be less important than non-AES related land-use commitments or even features of the AES application software. As a consequence, increasing AES uptake requires a closer focus on the decision-making context and the leeway in decision-making, rather than aiming at isolated decision-influencing factors. Despite being based on a small and unbalanced sample, the heuristic framework used here can help inform policy-making and future research on farmers ' AES decisions by taking the sequence and complex relations of decision-making elements into account. And although our results provide limited transferability we conclude that farmers' practical experiences need to be better integrated into AES policy and suggest a paradigm shift towards real profit for farmers' environmental services.


FachzeitschriftLand use policy
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - Nov. 2022

Externe IDs

Scopus 85138520034


Forschungsprofillinien der TU Dresden


  • AES adoption, Agri-environmental schemes, Case study, Decision-making, Heuristic, Saxony, AES adoption, Agri-environmental schemes, Case study, Decision-making, Heuristic, Saxony