"Why is Green and Blue Infrastructure so valuable for biodiversity?"; "What makes some elements and measures more useful than others?" and "How can barriers to their implementation be overcome?" - these questions were discussed with local farmers and farm advisors in a local workshop in the Southern German village of Höfingen in the federal state Baden Württemberg on March 12, 2019.
In the first session, examples of the biological principles behind nature conservation were presented. The subsequent discussion focused on the identification of the most suitable measures from a nature conservation perspective. Likewise, economic arguments and administrative burdens were also brought forward by farmers.
A species’ needs for shelter, reproduction and nutrition vary throughout the year and therefore require different natural elements to meet them.
Such barriers were the topic of the second session.
Barriers can be divided into different categories, such as economic barriers, administrative barriers or even cultural barriers (e.g. not wanting to rewet land that “ancestors” made arable by draining it). Economic barriers can be diverse. They comprise, for instance, yield losses, time conflicts during peak workloads in sowing and harvesting seasons, or increased transaction costs from bureaucracy. A lack of flexibility was also mentioned on several occasions. On the other hand, many farmers also implemented the voluntary agri-environment-climate measures on their farms.
In the final session, cooperative approaches from the region and Europe were presented. Great interest was demonstrated for the new Dutch approach, where groups of farmers draft and implement sets of measures to support certain species. It was seen as a way to potentially combine flexibility, reduced bureaucracy and concrete biodiversity outputs on a local level.
The workshop took place in an atmosphere that has seen many debates on agriculture on national media in the past month, for instance on glyphosate, piglet castration, the collapse of insect populations as well as the reform of the CAP. Often these debates are very polarized. Therefore, the workshop has also been welcomed by participants as an opportunity to build trust and exchange each other’s views in a rational manner. With the many changes of the new CAP ahead, this workshop can also serve as a template for future dialogue.