Neoliberalism and natural resource management: agri-environmental standards and the governing of farming practices

Higgins, Vaughan, Dibden, Jacqui, and Cocklin, Chris (2008) Neoliberalism and natural resource management: agri-environmental standards and the governing of farming practices. Geoforum, 39 (5). pp. 1776-1785.

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Abstract

Private standards and certification schemes are widely acknowledged as playing an increasingly important role in agri-environmental governance. While much of the existing research concludes that these mechanisms consolidate the global extension of neoliberalism – enhancing the power of corporate actors to the detriment of smaller producers – we argue that this overlooks the complex ways in which standards are used by governments and farmers in the governing of farming practices. Focusing specifically on a process standard – Environmental Management Systems (EMS) – promoted by the Australian government as a way of verifying the 'clean and green' status of agricultural exports, we examine how one regional group of producers has sought to use EMS standards in practice. Our analysis of a case study in the state of Victoria appears to confirm that EMS was a successful instrument for the extension of neoliberal governance, reinforcing the production of neoliberal subjectivities and practices amongst farmer participants and enabling the government to compensate for gaps in environmental provision. However, it would be a mistake to interpret the development of this EMS scheme as an example of naïve farmers manipulated by the state. In practice, farmers used the opportunities provided by government funding to undertake actions which expressed their own agri-environmental values and practices. Establishment of an EMS and associated eco-label enabled producers to demonstrate and extend their capacity to act as good environmental stewards. Our research highlights how the local application of environmental standards negotiates and shapes, rather than simply contributes to, neoliberal rule.

Item ID: 6352
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: standards; neoliberalism; natural resource management; environmental management system; Australia
ISSN: 1872-9398
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2010 01:21
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070108 Sustainable Agricultural Development @ 40%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 40%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1604 Human Geography > 160401 Economic Geography @ 20%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960605 Institutional Arrangements for Environmental Protection @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960604 Environmental Management Systems @ 30%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960601 Economic Incentives for Environmental Protection @ 30%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 18
Downloads: Total: 6
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