Systemic Barriers Preventing Farmer Engagement in the Agricultural Climate Transition: A Qualitative Study

Whitton, John orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-6391-5740 and Carmichael, Andrew orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-9540-2114 (2024) Systemic Barriers Preventing Farmer Engagement in the Agricultural Climate Transition: A Qualitative Study. Sustainability Science . ISSN 1862-4065

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Farmers and the agricultural sector are facing an uncertain future, due to rapidly changing agricultural policy and a nexus of commercial, environmental and biodiversity challenges brought on by anthropogenic climate change. Balancing the interests of the farming community and natural environment is generating organisational and personal conflict, rather than effective agricultural adaption and a focus on the net zero transition. In this paper, we consider how farmers and the wider farming community can participate in engagement and decision-making for the transition, on their own terms, whilst ensuring social justice for fair and equitable decision-making.
We discuss findings from our research project, that used questionnaires and follow up semi-structured interviews with farmers and farming groups to reveal systemic issues that prevent farmers engaging with the climate transition to net zero during their everyday practice. We highlight the structural relationships that form these barriers and frustrate farmers when designing and implementing farm interventions to agricultural systems during times of transition. Farmers have highlighted barriers to be associated with policy, (uncertain government strategy, landowner bias in government policy and tenancy restrictions, government bureaucracy - particularly environment schemes), commercial (market forces – downward pressure from supermarkets on price points, availability of labour due to seasonal migration restrictions, increasing cost of labour) and interpersonal (succession - uncertain future of the family farm due to limited income). This frustrates the ability of farmers to address climate change through farming practices and undermines the implementation of innovative engagement practices, such as co-produced interventions, in policy and decision-making settings.

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