From "Reports on Agriculture", June 2003

Farm-Audit versus Farm-Advisory-Syste - The Economics of Quality Assurance Systems -

Matthias Schramm und Prof. Dr. Achim Spiller, Göttingen

This paper focuses on the problem of quality assurance in agricultural production within the special context of a compulsory farm-audit-system recently brought forward by the European Union. In Germany there is a far reaching (quality) control gap that - in view of the difficult national financial situation - cannot be filled by traditional means of mandatory regulations and monitoring. It could possibly be bridged by further privatization of former state-run controlling and monitoring tasks. Against this background, the newly suggested Farm-Audit-System is to be assessed. An in depth analysis of already existing quality-management-approaches shows, however, that within the agricultural sector there are fundamental (economic) barriers which inhibit a purely private initiative to install quality-auditing-schemes. Thus, an (in the beginning) state-run compulsory farm-audit-program to launch a broad quality initiative seems to be justifiable.

The Nmin content of the soil as an agricultural environmental indicator of water pollution with nitrate

Dr. Peter Schweigert, Hannover, Peter Zimmermann, Weilheim

Excess nitrogen from farming has led to a rise in nitrate concentrations in groundwater. Since the late eighties, measures have been undertaken to reduce nitrate (NO3)- inputs. In order to document their success, the levels of mineral soil nitrogen (Nmin, mostly NO3-N) in drinking water catchment areas threatened by leaching are often checked early in the second half of the year. Any reduction in Nmin over time would then be attributable to reduced NO3 inputs into the groundwater. However, as the Nmin level is closely dependent on climatic influences, these become superimposed on any possible downward trend in the levels which might otherwise be recorded. Consequently, in many drinking-water catchment areas where regular recording of levels is still in its early stages, no downward trend has yet been detected.

In the article under review, the author employs multiple-regression computations to identify the climatic influences affecting the long-term recording of Nmin levels, and to compute trends adjusted for climatic trends. These interrelationships were analysed in three series of measurements. The results can be discussed using the example of a ten-year record kept in Lower Saxony (1992 - 2001):

This record from Lower Saxony is dependent to a very significant degree on the precipitation occurring from October to the time the sample was taken, the October temperature and the precipitation in September. Adjusted for climatic effects, the Nmin contents sank annually by the highly significant figure of 4.3 kilogram per hectar. Although after 7 years the trend exhibited by the climate-adjusted data was significant, the raw data, in contrast, displayed no significant downward trend, even after 10 years. Similar climatic influences and a downward trend in the climate-adjusted data were detected using a seven-year record kept in Bavaria, and a twenty-year one in Lower Saxony.

These result show that, in terms of drinking-water protection, much more weight can be given to Nmin records taken in autumn a measurement of the result or succes of Nitrogenreduktion aktivities if the influence of climate has been identified, and the climate-adjusted trends computed. In the field of overall groundwater protection, moreover, Nmin readings taken in spring for manuring strategic purposes can be similarly analysed and thus also used as agricultural environmental indicators.

Role, models and restrictions of decentralisation of the agri-environmental and rural development policies in the EU

Katja Arzt, Elke Baranek, Christian Schleyer, Berlin und Klaus Müller, Potsdam

In the field of agri-environmental policies, there has been increasing anonymity, centralisation, and a low level of transparency of decision-making processes. As possible measures to combat these adverse development trends, it is, a.o., recommended to decentralise and flexibilise agri-environmental policies. At regional and local levels, the development of innovative co-ordination mechanisms and co-operative structures is as important as the quest for suitable methods of participation and for conflict resolution, i.e. social learning processes. This article presents three institutional approaches that were tested within the GRANO research project. Their concrete activities, results and potential abilities are highlighted and discussed for the field of soil erosion. The studies suggest that both Agri-Environmental-Forums (AEF) and Environmental Co-operatives are able to integrate the actors´ preferences and values into the discussion and to respond better to regional distinctions when designing measures. However, the AEF seem to be most suitable for determining regional environmental objectives and appropriate measures, whereas Environmental Co-operatives prove advantageous for implementation of these measures in a co-operative way. The attempt to implement Auctions (or tendering procedures) for Ecological Services indicates that the general concept would work but it also shows that most individuals still have profound concerns. To sum up, all approaches seem to be able not only to initiate a necessary institutional change but also to flexibly accompany this process.

Farm management and economic effects of organic milk production in the region Mostviertel-Eisenwurzen (Austria)

Ruth Kratochvil, Oliver Kaliski, Leopold Kirner, Prof. Dr. Bernhard Freyer, Wien

The objective of the contribution presented is to evaluate a widespread adoption of organic milk production in the region Mostviertel-Eisenwurzen from a farm management and economic point of view. The comparison between conventional and organic milk production is based on Linear Programming (LP) Models drawn up for six different dairy farms (farm types dairy farming and dairy-suckling-cow farming, each of it with a model for extensive, middle-intensive and intensive farming). The results of the LP-Models show differences in marginal income and the marginal income less additional costs caused by conversion to organic farming like investments, inspection fee et cetera. Based on the LP-Models, the potential emissions of greenhouse gases of each farm model are quantified. In a next step, the external costs of different farming systems are assessed by linking the emissions to cost factors. In the case of premium prices for organic produce, marginal incomes are as a rule higher in the organic dairy farms. When assuming conventional prices, marginal incomes are usually still higher due to higher subsidies for organic farming. Reducing marginal income by additional costs occurring in organic farming, the figures for the organic model farms are less than those for the conventional ones. Due to the avoidance of N fertilizer and a lower input of bought in concentrates, organic dairy farms cause less external costs than conventional ones. The aggregation of findings for the single farm models to the regional level results in a 28 % (dairy farming) and 24 % (dairy-suckling-cow farming) reduction in external costs under organic cultivation.

Profitability of automatic compared to conventional milking systems

Dirk Hömberg und Prof. Dr. Helmut Hoffmann, Freising-Weihenstephan

The interest in automatic milking systems is ever increasing as farmers hope for a substantial reduction in work hours, more flexibility and a possible increase in milk yield, through more frequent milking. Increases in milk yield; however, have been only slight and by no means guaranteed, since the necessary shorter milking intervals have not occurred with sufficient regularity. The awaited reduction in work hours fell between 12 and 4.5 hours per cow and year, relating inversely to milking-plant size, while use of an automatic milking system caused a cost increase of 230 - 400 per cow and year. In order to counterbalance this cost difference with the work hours being saved, a wage of 32 - 67 / hour would be needed, if milk yield remained the same. Even if milk yield were increased by 1000 kilogram per cow and year, a wage of 23 - 46 / hour would still be needed. Therefore, we must conclude that automatic milking systems are not yet economically viable. A different situation would arise if the maximum number of cows per automatic milking unit could be increased and if the useful life of automatic milking systems would be comparable to this of conventional milking systems. If at all, then such systems would be most cost effective for dairy farms with circa 60 cows, since farms of this size showed the greatest reduction in work hours.

Assessment of Agricultural Production from a Waste Management Standpoint

Jan Berger, Andreas Böß, Horst Fehrenbach, Florian Knappe, and Regine Vogt, Heidelberg

Agricultural recycling of biogenic waste is traditionally highly important to the waste management industry. Recycling options include co-treatment with slurry in agricultural digesters, spreading on farmland as fertilizer or to add organic matter, and recycling as animal feed. The ecological value of a given recycling option depends on the material properties of the waste and the potential for using the option itself. Among the available options, agricultural recycling certainly has its strengths. This is especially the case for use as animal feed - providing epidemiological hygiene standards are upheld. Recycling as fertilizer does far worse in comparison.

One problem is the often relatively small amounts of plant-available nutrients combined with marked emissions of nitrous oxide and ammonia. These emissions are not only significant in comparison with other agricultural disposal options: in many cases they fundamentally determine the environmental impacts of agricultural production. If we exclude livestock, the environmental effects attendant upon fertilizer spreading clearly dominate the result data for entire agricultural production systems.

A further problem is the soil pollution associated with fertilizer spreading. Pollution loads vary widely among the various fertilizers, and attention is currently focused upon municipal sewage sludge (MSS). As the quantity of fertilizer applied depends on its plant-available nutrient content, it is useful for comparison purposes to look at the pollutant content per unit of fertilizer. With the exception of aerobic and anaerobic organic waste compost, this measure proves to be far lower than with MSS. In addition, there are the unit loads in MSS of organic pollutants (xenobiotics). The strength of compost lies in adding organic matter. A future review of maximum pollutant levels ought to take this into account and differentiate according to the different uses.

The recycling options for many types of biogenic waste are not limited to agriculture. When assessing to what extent specific kinds of biogenic waste ought to be used in agriculture, it is thus useful in ecological terms to compare recycling alternatives in other sectors.

The 'Agrarwende' as seen by the German population

Dr. Stefan Mann, Pfäffikon, and Juliane Mante, Rostock

In a representative survey among the German population, the agreement on the turnaround in national agricultural policy since 2001 (called 'Agrarwende') is tested. Secondly, the agreement on the Agrarwende´s philosophy is retrieved by asking if consumers would agree to support organic farming. The attitude on the government supporting organic farming is, in general, positive, whereas consumers of organic products, respondents with an urban upbringing and voters of the Green Party have an even more positive attitude. The term 'Agrarwende' itself is only familiar to half of respondents. Attitudes on the 'Agrarwende' are split, while the critique is usually directed to the slow and undecided realisation, only rarely to the Agrarwende´s idea itself.

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