Consumers are willing to pay for ecosystem services


Many consumers are willing to pay for improved environmental quality and thus non-market values of impacts of food production on e.g. water quality, C sequestration, biodiversity, pollution, erosion or GHG emissions may even be comparable to the market value of agricultural production. Diverfarming project elucidated how consumers value agroecosystem services enabled by diversification and provided consumer perspectives for developing future agricultural and food policies to better support cropping diversification.

The researchers quantified consumers’ willingness to pay for the benefits of increased farm and regional scale diversity of cultivation practices and crop rotations. Three valuation scenarios were presented to a representative sample of consumers: the first one focused on agroecosystem services on cropland, the second on wider socio-cultural effects and the third was a combination of them. A total of 600 consumers finished the questionnaire.

It was found that 79% of households were willing to pay extra for cropping diversification and that this corresponds to a significant monetary value of ecosystem services. The calculated total non-market value of cropping diversification at the country level can be as high as 47-95% compared to the annual market revenues of cereals, and 15-32% compared to the total market revenues in agriculture in Finland. The sum the consumers were willing to pay was on the average €228 per household annually which equals to €245 per hectare of cultivated cropland.

The relatively high willingness to pay for both agroecological and socio-cultural benefits provide important messages for actors in the food chain and for policy makers on future targeting of economic resources within agri-environmental schemes. This study showed that positive societal implications of cropping diversification were valued slightly higher than direct field level effects of diversification. In particular, improved maintenance of domestic food production and processing, reduced nutrient runoffs from agriculture, maintained food culture and tradition, as well as improved carbon balance of agriculture and the number of jobs in rural areas were valued high.

> Source: EurekAlert!