An analysis of farm diversification in France and the United Kingdom based on case studies of Sud Manche and West Dorset
In the past two decades farming in the European Union (EU) has come under increasing pressure to survive as the profits from sales of agricultural commodities have fallen despite the substantial financial inputs from the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). To maintain their income, farmers have had to diversify their business. The sociocultural, political and economic reasons involved in farm diversification ought to be analysed critically at this particular time for European agriculture with the implementation of Agenda 2000 promoting farm diversification within its rural development policy. Recent changes in the CAP which aim to shift away agriculture from a purely agricultural support agenda towards a broader approach to both agricultural and rural development have encouraged diversification and/or pluriactivity among farmers. The aim of introducing diversification and/or pluriactivity on farms is to maintain falling farm income by providing another source of income in the business and spreading the economic risk, to develop rural development by the creation of jobs, but also to protect the environment. The primary aim of the research was to identify, analyse and compare the nature of diversification in two European dairy areas, sud Manche (France) and west Dorset (Britain). Sud Manche and west Dorset are two dairy areas that have a great opportunity for farm diversification linked to milk processing activities and tourism. The secondary aim of this research was to determine whether the decision-making process used by farmers to decide to diversify is driven by the changes in agricultural policy or by the characteristics of the farmers and the farms. The study used questionnaires, interviews and focus group to identify the nature and extent of diversification as well as to collect information on farmer's attitudes towards diversification. The results have showed that farmers from both study areas have diversified and have a different attitude toward diversification. The nature of diversification is different in the two areas. Farmers in sud Manche have diversified into a more agricultural orientated diversification whereas farmers in west Dorset have more non-agricultural diversification. However, some farmers in both study areas do not believe that diversification is a long term solution to the agricultural crisis in Europe. Moreover, many farmers have expressed their concerns about agricultural policy changes and the entry to the EU of countries from central and eastern Europe and the consequences this could have on agricultural prices. Farmers in sud Manche appeared not very knowledgeable about the various options to diversification and were quite reluctant to do anything else except producing food. On the other hand, farmers in west Dorset appeared to have more knowledge about diversification and pluriactivity and were more inclined to the idea of producing something else than food production.