Chapter 5: Multifunctionality: The Experience of English Farming
INTRODUCTION The topic at hand, ‘multifunctionality’, is defined as the creation of any unpriced spillover of benefits additional to agriculture’s provision of food and fibre. The concept thus refers to the provision of public goods such as environmental values, rural amenities and cultural values, as well as rural employment and rural development. These purposes are now being cited in order to justify maintaining the high level of subsidy currently given to the farm sector within the European Union (EU), of which the United Kingdom is a member. The standard arguments for maintaining high levels of agricultural protection are thus in the early stages of being modified. If the new arguments are accepted, the option will be there for eventually shifting the justification from support for the physical production of conventional agricultural goods to support for supplying a range of public goods which, it is claimed, have hitherto been supplied free as a positive externality of farming. The case examined in this chapter is that of England. Some other countries, such as Japan, Switzerland and Norway, are also involved in the effort to justify agricultural support under the creative, indeed open-ended, label of multifunctionality, but there is a reason for concentrating on one example. The logic, or illogic, of subsidizing the farm sector may be the same everywhere but the case for multifunctionality rests on specific claims about the unpriced contribution of agriculture in highly particular geographical settings. Nathan Rosenberg urged, in his Perspectives on Technology, that economists will have to...
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