The agriculture-water interface : policy integration and the environment
Although current environmental policies may prove successful against narrowly defined criteria of economic, social or environmental sustainability, it is by no means certain that the sustainability of inter-dependent economic and environmental systems will be assured. In fact, policy intervention may result in the displacement of environmental problems to other media, times or places. Farmers are the focus for divergent forces of state, market and social regulation and in consequence their response, or more importantly non-response, to environmental policies cannot be assessed in isolation. This thesis explores these complex issues through analysis of the agriculture-water interface, focusing on the allocation and regulation of abstraction water for use as spray irrigation by farmers in the eastern counties of England. Adopting an interface-network methodology, the analysis traces the network of social relations which directly and indirectly influence the use and management of irrigation water and potential response to demand management policies, encompassing farmers' interaction with the NRA, food processing, manufacturing and retail firms as well as farmer representative groups. Risk and uncertainty play a central role shaping interaction not only between firms, but between firms and farmers as they attempt to reallocate the financial, production, legal and environmental risks associated with production. The analysis demonstrates how farmers' incorporation into the "quality projects" of the downstream food network critically distorts their response to demand management policies. This perpetuates a highly intensive system of agricultural production, contributing to the loss of landscape and wildlife habitat and diffuse pollution of ground and surface water sources. The analysis concludes by outlining an alternative agenda of action for the Environment Agency which focuses on promoting synergy between state and market forces of regulation. Only through addressing these issues will the integration of the environment and economy prove successful at the agriculture-water interface.