Many aims of nature protection can only be achieved by adapted agricultural methods. For this reason in the last decades various options have been worked out for the farmers' to sign contracts regulating the management of their lands. One of these options is signing a contract for the management of dry meadows. It has become evident that not all farmers are willing to sign such contracts in spite of the possibility to earn some extra money. The question is why some farmers refuse to sign such contracts.
The project aimed to answer this question. It can be shown that there are a number of factors that play an important role. Depending on the region and the way of farming different factors are decisive for signing or not. The following factors, however, play an important role for most of the farmers:
- The contracts for the cultivation of dry meadows fix the earliest date when the grass is to be cut. For some farmers this regulation creates operational difficulties: Depending on the summer weather they are forced to cut the meadows and e.g. pick the cherries at the same time.
- The cultivation of dry meadows is very time-consuming. During the harvest of this grass the farmers have hardly any time left for other jobs. This means it puts limits on the farmers time schedule.
- The contracts not only regulate the date when the grass is to be cut but also other matters such as the fertilisation of the dry meadows or their use as pastures. Therefore the farmers are limited in their range of farming options.
- The use of the grass of these dry meadows is a major problem for the farmers. Due to the late time of cutting and the prohibition of fertilisation the quality of the grass is not very good. Depending on the way of farming they can hardly use the grass for feeding their cows, especially if they are dairy farmers.
- At the moment the farmers do not think about discontinuing the management of these dry meadows thanks to the subsidies they get if they sign a contract. However it has to be expected that several dry meadows will not be used any longer if the subsidies are reduced or even cancelled.
The results of this project show that very different factors influence the farmers' decision whether to sign a contract or not. There is not just one single important factor but every farmer also weighs these factors in a different way. Nevertheless a universal pattern can be seen: The importance of the subsidies and the cost of human labour.
- Schenk A. 2000: Der spinnt doch da oben zu heuen - Pro und contra Bewirtschaftungsverträge - Eine sozialwissenschaftliche Untersuchung im Rahmen des Trockenwiesen und -weideninventars. Schlussbericht des TWW-Projektes Bewirtschafterbefragungë. (Internal report)