The article offers to describe and analyse the economic motivations for creating and operating observatories of agricultural practices. An observatory is a unit provided with technical, financial and human means as well as information and data, and which uses them to produce information and knowledge for both private and public users. The main obstacle in creating an observatory is its initial cost, as its activity is profitable only in the medium to long term. A second obstacle is maintaining cooperation between all the involved parties since investments and benefits are not equally shared among them. Finally, public policies also give incentives to create and maintain observatories. Performance-based contracts offered to farmers tend to encourage them to increase their knowledge regarding the environmental impacts of agricultural practices. Contracts based on agricultural practices rather than environmental impacts have the opposite effect: the government, bearing all the costs related to uncertainties as to the environmental outcomes, is not willing to offer high payments to the farmers, thus discouraged. We argue that innovative agri-environmental policies, environmentally-efficient and balanced as to responsibilities, can be offered to farmers if they are negotiated by all parties within observatories.


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