Exploring sustainable technical alternatives for Dutch dairy systems by integrating agro-economic modelling and public preferences assessment

Theoretical discussions on the joint consideration of multiple (economic, social and environmental) functions when assessing the sustainability of human actions are increasing. However few studies exist that integrate the social demand for multifunctional agriculture in the evaluation of the sustainability and the global welfare of society. This paper presents a methodology to answer to these questions: Which are the social demands for the multiple functions of agriculture and how can they be quantified?; Which are the feasible technical alternatives of land management to satisfy these demands?; What is the value of the land use alternatives according to social preferences and which alternatives optimally satisfy the social preferences?. The net utility of alternatives for society, and therefore their sustainability, will be measured as the sum of market and non-market net changes compared to the current situation. The proposed methodology combines economic valuation, integrated modelling, stakeholder analysis, and multi-criteria evaluation. In particular, different multi-criteria methods (QFD/ANP) and agro-economic modelling and optimizing tools (Landscape IMAGES) were used. The methodology will be fully illustrated through the case study of dairy farming landscapes in the Northern Friesian Woodlands, The Netherlands. Results show that for the case study it is possible to change current farming techniques and achieve more sustainable farming systems. The more sustainable alternatives are beneficial for farmers, obtaining higher gross margin, and for government, decreasing the current levels of subsidies in agri-environmental programs. Even current environmental restrictions can be slightly relaxed without compromising social demands to the analysed Dutch dairy farming systems.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-25

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