What can and can't crowding theories tell us about farmers' ‘environmental’ intentions in post-Agri-Environment Scheme contexts?

Helena S Darragh, Steven Emery

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11 Citations (Scopus)
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The termination of the Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) Agri-Environment Scheme in England provides a unique opportunity for testing and exploring the so-called crowding-out theory. The theory posits that payment for the provision of public goods leads to a reduction in the intrinsic motivation for their supply. Through a small qualitative case study of farmers in Southwest England we explore farmers' intentions to continue with ‘environmental behaviours' following the cessation of ELS. Contrary to the crowding-out theory we find that farmers will continue with longstanding ‘environmental practices' that were financially rewarded by the ELS, but will pick and choose whether to continue with newly introduced practices depending on how they fit with farmers' existing cultural, economic and instrumental priorities. Moreover, we argue that the crowding-out theory is based on a set of assumptions and simplifications that do not adequately help us interpret the relationship between farmers' motives, practices and intentions. In particular, we show that intrinsic and extrinsic motives cannot straightforwardly be separated and that definitions of what constitutes an ‘environmental behaviour' are far more complex than is often assumed. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-391
Number of pages22
JournalSociologia Ruralis
Issue number2
Early online date16 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2018


  • agri-environment schemes
  • neoliberalism
  • Crowding-out
  • crowding-in
  • good farmer
  • Environmental Stewardship; farmers; environmental perceptions; Payments for Ecosystem services


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