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Policy instruments on water protection of the selected European countries in relation to organic agriculture

Znaor, Darko (2000) Policy instruments on water protection of the selected European countries in relation to organic agriculture. In: Alföldi, Thomas; Lockeretz, Willie and Niggli, Urs (Eds.) IFOAM 2000, the World Grows Organic, p. 627.

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Most agricultural operations, such as soil tillage, manuring, grazing, and irrigation, pose a serious threat to water quality. Agriculture is a heavy water user and a serious water polluter (nutrients, pesticides, salts, pathogens, heavy metals, oxygen-depleting and radioactive substances, etc.). In addition, agriculture threatens water habitats. The UN “Convention for the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes” ratified at Helsinki in 1992 obliges the signatory countries to further prevent, control and reduce water pollution from point and non-point sources. The implementation of the Convention is co-ordinated by the UN Economic Commission for Europe. In October 1999, this organisation commissioned a study aimed at assessing the status of implementation of regulatory and policy instruments to protect European waters from the consequences of agricultural practices.
Material and methods
The study (Znaor, 1999) involved nine European countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Great Britain, Hungary, Netherlands, Romania and Slovenia), as well as several regional (international) programmes, such as EU, Baltic Sea, Danube River Basin and the Black Sea programmes. The information needed to analyse the existing national and international policies and their implementation was obtained through a survey using a specially developed questionnaire. The answers were provided by a number of high governmental officials from the ministries of agriculture, environment and/or water management of the reviewed countries and the respected international organisations. The survey was complemented with information collected through a literature study. Because of its potential to reduce the water pollution caused by agricultural practices, the policy instruments to promote organic farming have been given special attention in the study.
Results and discussion
The study showed that (i) although all surveyed countries have special legislation and policy instruments on protecting water from the consequences of agricultural practices, their implementation is unsatisfactory; (ii) thirteen out of fifteen EU countries failed in complying with the EU Nitrate Directive (in mid December 1999, only Denmark and Finland entirely complied with the Directive); (iii) only four out of nine countries surveyed have specific regulations and policies to support organic agriculture; (iv) the officials contacted assess organic farming to an agricultural method with the least pollution risk. The main obstacles for carrying out the above-mentioned convention are the weak institutional arrangements and the lack of appropriate policy instruments stimulating good agricultural practices. The convention is best implemented in the countries with both well-established national co-ordination between responsible ministries and operating subsidies for “water-friendly” farming. The subsidies that are provided within the framework of the agri-environmental programme in the EU, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovenia are great tools in enhancing conversion to organic agriculture.
The economic policy instruments were found to be most fundamental for change to organic farming. In order to encourage farmers (voluntarily) to participate in programs that minimise water pollution, the financial incentives for these programmes have to be as stimulating as other agricultural programmes designed to encourage high-input agriculture. The experience of several countries suggests that "green taxes" on fertilisers and pesticides higher than 100% would have a better impact on conversion to organic farming than the combination of conversion subsidies and low "green taxes". This is because the "green taxes" affect 95-99% of the farmer population, while the conversion subsidies offer incentives to a few farmers who belong to the group of pioneers and early adopters. Organic agriculture can be a great help for the EU countries in complying with the Nitrate Directive. A “policy-led” development based on appropriate regulations and economic instruments are central to foster further expansion of organic agriculture throughout Europe.
Znaor, D. (1999). Regulatory and policy instruments to protect European waters from agricultural activities: status of their implementation. ETC, Leusden and UN Economic Commission for Europe, Geneva, 77 pp.

EPrint Type:Conference paper, poster, etc.
Type of presentation:Paper
Keywords:Organic agriculture and water protection; Regulatory, economic and informative policy instruments; Nitrate Directive; Water pollution; Green taxes on fertilisers and pesticides
Subjects: Farming Systems > Farm economics
Farming Systems
Crop husbandry
Farming Systems > Social aspects
Environmental aspects > Air and water emissions
Environmental aspects > Biodiversity and ecosystem services
Food systems > Policy environments and social economy
Environmental aspects
Farming Systems > Farm nutrient management
Knowledge management
Research affiliation: Netherlands
Deposited By: Znaor, Dr Darko
ID Code:26414
Deposited On:01 Jul 2014 08:19
Last Modified:01 Jul 2014 08:19
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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