Farming and landscape management: How French farmers are coping with the ecologization of their activities [Book Review]

In Europe, an increasing share of public subsidies for food production is being transferred towards the production of goods and environmental services. Today, farmers hesitate between the quest for technical and economic performance, which has been the paradigm of their professional activities since the 1960s, on one hand, and taking account of the environmental concerns that have been imposed since the middle of the 80s, on the other. Is it possible for farmers to continue to work according to the paradigm of the producer of agri-food goods, and how do they react to the ecologization of their activities? In this paper, we will see the difficulties and sources of tension induced by landscape maintenance in the daily professional practice of the farmers. We will see that the professional identity of the farmers is profoundly brought into question by these changes (substitution of strictly “agricultural issues” by more general concerns such as “rural issues,” substitution of the farmer by the “ecologized” peasant...). The topic of landscape reveals social strains between farmers. It also raises the question of the legitimacy of farmers to define the sense of their activities by themselves. Finally we will see that environmental orientations do not systematically open up new prospects for all farmers; they sometimes contribute to increase the inequalities between farmers (financial support proportional to land property, marginalization of farmers who are less socially integrated...).
Keywords agri-environment  farmers professional identity  landscape  multifunctionality  rural amenities  social contract
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DOI 10.1007/s10806-006-9010-0
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