Farmers’ preferences for nutrient and climate-related agri-environmental schemes: A cross-country comparison


We use data from a survey of 2439 farmers in 5 countries around the Baltic Sea (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Poland and Sweden) to investigate their preferences for adopting agricultural practices aimed at reducing nutrient leaching and greenhouse gas emissions. The measures considered are set-aside, catch crops and reduced fertilization. Contracts vary with respect to the area enrolled, contract length, possibility of premature termination, availability of professional advice and compensation. We quantitatively describe farmers’ preferences in terms of their willingness-to-accept compensation for specific attributes of these contracts, if implemented. The results vary substantially between farm types (farmers’ characteristics) and between the 5 countries, and support differentiation of contract obligations and payments to improve the uptake of Agri-Environmental Schemes. The results can be readily used to improve the design of country-specific nutrient reduction policies, in accordance with the next Common Agricultural Policy.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Source: Eurostat, National statistics from the five countries and sample data from farm survey

Fig. 3

Source: Eurostat

Fig. 4

Source: After Zimmerman and Britz (2016)


  1. 1.

    Despite asking farmers to rank the alternatives, we only use the first-choice data here. The main reason for this was that in addition to estimation of implicit prices for contract characteristics we were also interested in welfare measures associated with contracts themselves (WTA for alternative-specific constants) and these could not reliably be estimated using the ranking data. In addition, utilizing ranking data is still considered less robust than the first-choice data, particularly with respect to incentive properties of the second and subsequent stages of ranking. The empirical results illustrated this, with unstable preferences across various ranking stages.

  2. 2.

    Please see Supplementary Material S2 for a description of the panels and for further details of survey distribution.

  3. 3.

    Our experimental design varied the share of the area to be enrolled in the set-aside and catch crops contracts from 1 to 25%. On the contrary, the fertilization utilization type of contract always specified that new practices would need to be implemented on all fertilized arable land of the farm.

  4. 4.

    In the choice situations presented to farmers contract lengths varied from 1 to 20 years.

  5. 5.

    Full modelling results are reported in Supplementary material S4.

  6. 6.

    The models also included a random log-normally distributed cost/scale parameter. We do not report it in Table 4, as this parameter cannot be interpreted in WTP space, unlike all other attributes. The interpretation of the confounded cost/scale parameter is not particularly useful for our analysis, except for stating that it is positive, as expected (and imposed by log-normal distribution). We provide the full modelling results in Supplementary material S4.


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This research was funded by BONUS GO4BALTIC (BONUS, Art 185), funded jointly by the EU and national funding institutions in Denmark (the Innovation Fund), Estonia (Estonian Research Council ETAG), Finland (Academy of Finland), Poland (NCBR) and Sweden (FORMAS). The research has also received funding from Stockholm University Baltic Sea Center—project Baltic Eye. MC gratefully acknowledges the support of the National Science Centre of Poland (Sonata 10, 2015/19/D/HS4/01972). KZ gratefully acknowledges the support of the National Science Centre of Poland (Preludium 10, 2015/19/N/HS4/03365).

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Hasler, B., Czajkowski, M., Elofsson, K. et al. Farmers’ preferences for nutrient and climate-related agri-environmental schemes: A cross-country comparison. Ambio 48, 1290–1303 (2019).

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  • Agri-environmental schemes
  • Baltic Sea
  • Choice experiment
  • Farmers’ preferences
  • Willingness to accept