New Publications

Culture and agricultural biodiversity conservation

Farmers’ behavior towards sustainable agricultural production is key to reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture and conserving biodiversity. We investigate the causal effect of culture on pro-environmental behaviors of farmers, and how policy instruments interact with culture to influence behavior. We exploit a unique natural experiment in Switzerland, which consists of two parts. First, there is an inner-Swiss cultural border between German- and French-speaking farmers who share the same natural environment, economy, and institutions, but differ culturally in their norms and values. Second, we exploit the effects of an agri-environmental policy reform that increased the monetary incentives to enroll land into biodiversity conservation. Using a spatial difference-in-discontinuities design and panel census data of all Swiss farms between 2010 and 2017, we show the following findings: Before the reform, farmers on the French-speaking side of the cultural border systematically enrolled less land into biodiversity conservation, compared to the German-speaking side. With increased monetary incentives following the policy reform in 2014, the French-speaking farmers enrolled relatively more additional land than the German-speaking farmers, shrinking the discontinuity. These findings indicate that while there exist cultural differences in pro-environmental behaviors, increased monetary incentives can reduce the importance of cultural differences. We discuss the implications for policy.