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2020 ECPR Winter School in Methods & Techniques

Barriers for Sustainable Governance in the German Livestock Sector – Reconnecting Water and Food Policy subsystems

Environmental Policy
Policy Analysis
Colette Vogeler
TU Braunschweig
Colette Vogeler
TU Braunschweig
Malte Möck
TU Braunschweig

Global environmental challenges such as climate change and the scarcity of resources are related to agricultural production in manifold ways. With rising production needs and changing consumption patterns, pressure on land use, on water resources and on biodiversity is increasing and with it the challenge to develop paths towards more resilient and biodiverse agricultural systems. However, policymakers are only beginning to respond to the changing demands for ecologically more sustainable forms of agriculture. Policymaking in this area has long been characterized by “exceptionalism”, a paradigm that assigns a special status to farmers and that prioritizes income stability and food security over other issues (Daugbjerg & Feindt 2017). Contemporary agricultural policies integrate new demands concerning ecological sustainability, however, new governance modes towards a more sustainable management of food systems are only beginning to be explored (Chapman et al. 2017). Specific challenges arise in the field of modern livestock farming, which is characterized by increasing intensification and the regional concentration of production facilities (Vogeler 2017). This leads to growing pressure on water and soil resources. In many regions, the maximum allowable limits of nitrate in groundwater resources are exceeded, partly as a consequence of the increased use of fertilizer and spreading of manure (Oelmann et al. 2017). Applying the Social Ecological Systems Framework, we argue that a major challenge to the sustainable management of both, food and water resources, is that policymaking is traditionally divided between the two subsystems (Ostrom 2009; Epstein et al. 2015). The Social Ecological Systems Framework assumes that different ecological systems require specific governance arrangements which are customized according to the ecological as well as the social dynamics of the system and that are sufficiently flexible in adapting to system changes. Studying two regions in Germany with extremely high levels of intensification in agricultural production and the worsening of groundwater relating thereto, we show that policymaking is still relatively unconnected between agricultural and water policy, which leads to adverse outcomes and prevents a sustainable management of resources.
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Epstein et al. (2015) Institutional Fit and the Sustainability of Social-Ecological Systems. In: Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 14, 34-40.
Oelmann et al. (2017) Quantifizierung der landwirtschaftlich verursachten Kosten zur Trinkwasserbereitstellung, Umweltforschungsplan des Bundesumweltministeriums.
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Vogeler (2017): Farm Animal Welfare Policy in Comparative Perspective: Determinants of Cross-national Differences in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. In: European Policy Analysis 3 (1), 20–47.
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