Science - January 26, 2017

WUR leads EU project on farmers’ motives

Text:
Albert Sikkema

Now that more and more farmers are stopping for lack of successors and prospects, it is time to pose the question: what makes a farmer want to go on farming? Business economist Miranda Meuwissen is going to address this question in a big EU project.

Researcher Miranda Meuwissen visits De Hooilanden farm in Bennekom.

Researcher Miranda Meuwissen visits De Hooilanden farm in Bennekom.
Photo: Ingrid Blees

Meuwissen comes from a Limburg family of pig, asparagus and dairy farmers. But most of them have given up farming. ‘That’s what you talk about at birthday parties there. Who is going to supply our food in future, and under what circumstances can farmers carry on farming?’ She gets to try and figure that out now in an EU project to the tune of about 5 million euros.

Sixteen research institutes in thirteen countries will be studying the resilience of European farmers. WUR is coordinating the study, and with four chair groups involved, is the main partner. Plant Production Systems will look at business models, Business Economics at the economic aspects, Strategic Communication at communication and Public Administration and Policy at policy. As well as researchers there are banks, insurance companies, food-processing companies, and farmer and consumer organizations involved in the study. 

Meuwissen will focus on risk management. Over the next four years she will find out how farmers assess the risks and which risks they want to limit. A second sub-project will look at the extent of the aging of the farming community, as well as at the farmers’ children and other groups who do decide to go into farming. That should generate recommendations about passing on the business. A third group of researchers will look at possible improvements to policy. Attention will also be paid to the positive contextual factors for a farm, including rural living conditions and relations with consumers.


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