In this research project, co-operative agreements in agriculture were examined as an instrument to improve European Union (EU) water policy.
The project objectives were to:
- Analyse the political feasibility of co-operative agreements, between farmers and water utilities and/or nature conservation bodies, as an instrument to meet environmental standards economically and ecologically.
- Assess co-operative agreements for a flexible EU water policy and for reforming the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The work was undertaken by three research groups: University of Dortmund, Germany; Agriculture Economics Research Institute, Netherlands, and WRc, UK working together with experts across the EU.
The project was a collaboration of European Commission Environment and Climate and Ministry of Agriculture; Nature Management and Fisheries, Netherlands; Environment Agency and Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, UK; and Government of North Rhine-Westfalia, Germany.
An overview report was produced from 15 Member States national reports supported by 50 case studies. A workshop in April 2000 presented an overview of existing agreements between water utilities and farmers. Participants discussed reasons why agreements are widely used in some countries, whereas in others they are rare or not used. The advantages of co-operative agreements relative to other instruments to control agricultural pollution were evaluated and changes required in European water policy to encourage use of this voluntary approach were analysed.
This research will be useful to farmers, water utilities, nature conservation groups, public authorities, politicians, NGOs and other parties interested in finding strategies to achieve EU water policy objectives.
The project outcome will help the future debate on water policies in the EU and guide member states in establishing and implementing co-operative agreements to reconcile water suppliers, farmers and nature protection groups by combining more traditionally used mandatory political instruments with a non-authoritarian approach.