The influence of multi-level public policy configurations on the resilience of farming systems in the European Union (Yannick Buitenhuis)

Farming systems in the European Union (EU) are being exposed to many complex and interrelated economic, social and environmental challenges. These challenges put pressure on the resilience of the farming systems and their ability to deliver public and private goods. The growing complexity of challenges increases the need to develop appropriate policy responses that enhance the resilience of farming systems.

The EU has been supporting the agricultural sector since the introduction of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 1962. However, the resilience of the agricultural sector became an explicit concern only recently, when the European Commission (EC) announced that the post-2020 CAP should guarantee this resilience. Enhancing the resilience of farming systems is, thus, high on the agenda of EU agricultural policymakers. However, understanding how to improve the resilience of EU farming systems is not self-evident. Because multiple policies are in place that interact and, to differing degrees, support or constrain the resilience of these farming systems. For instance, the CAP interacts with other EU policies (e.g. Nitrate directive) and national agricultural or social policies for farmers (e.g. health insurances or pensions). The result is a complex and multi-layered configuration of policies.

Discussions about how to build resilience in systems are gaining ground in both research and policy making circles. However, both resilience studies and policy sciences have not yet fully addressed how policies, that are part of complex and multi-layered policy configurations, (can) influence resilience. The question that emerges is to what extent and how different (agricultural) policies, as part of complex and multi-layered policy configurations, affect resilience?

The research objective of this PhD project is to expand the scientific knowledge on how policies influence the overall resilience of farming systems in the EU and to formulate suggestions for policy improvements. By addressing this question, the aim is also to contribute to the conceptual and empirical discussion on the relationship between public policy and resilience more generally. The research brings together scholarship on resilience sciences and policy sciences.

This PhD research project is related to the EU’s Horizon2020 SURE-Farm Project.