Topic: Exploring socio-economic inequalities within rural regions: marketing regulations and land-use implications in Austrian, Italian, and Spanish cattle farming
Keywords: Governance scales, land-animal relations, power distribution, spatial justice, qualitative assessment
Shifts towards environmental sustainability in European cattle farming demand farmers’ participation in working towards restorative farming practices. In some parts of Europe agri-environmental schemes aim to improve environmental performance in cattle farming whilst sustaining the socio-economic performance of the farm. In other parts marketing regulations aim to guarantee quality production combining animal biodiversity or animal welfare improvement, with added value for farmers through new consumer markets. These public and private schemes can overlap or be combined and can help farmers to reorient their farm practice. They result in adjustments in land-use and farm practices—in some respects these are contested and may endanger family farms and livelihoods—that promote sustainable agriculture, generate knowledge and innovation, and empower family farms to change and adapt to new societal and environmental needs. We explore socio-economic inequalities within rural regions in Austria, Italy and Spain, investigating the patterns of marketing and resulting inequalities, identifying drivers of these inequalities, and how these are experienced and responded to. In Austria a new marketing schemes related to animal welfare in the organic dairy production chain limits small-scaled mountain farmers to continue their business activity. In Italy the marketing of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese of an autochthonous animal breed brings good farm income but remains poorly related to improving the environmental conditions in farmland. In Spain marketing of regional produced beef provides farmers with access to a market but this has no specific orientation on land-use in mountainous areas, and added value remains limited. Preliminary analyses indicate that smaller farms receive poor policy support to differentiate farm productivity. Finally, we discuss the distribution of power and the role of the state in supporting a shift to restorative agriculture, and, more in particular, the need of new and innovative governance scales so as regional, self-regulatory farmers cooperatives that are aligned with other stakeholder groups and existing government structures in Europe, and context-specific public policies in way that these enable the specific needs, characteristics, and potentials of places and regions to be taken better into account. This way, unrealized territorial assets (territorial potentials) may be mobilized through policies and actions at various administrative levels.