Decrease text Increase text

Public Goods

Public goods and public intervention in Agriculture

Public goods and services are accessible to everyone and can be enjoyed jointly. These goods and services, by definition, are not usually delivered through market mechanisms. Examples of public goods that are provided through agriculture are: farmland biodiversity, landscapes, and natural resources such as water and soils. Furthermore, agriculture has an influence on economic or social public goods such as the development of vibrant and prosperous rural communities.

Nowadays, given the major technological and technical changes agriculture went through, (involving the intensification of land-use and the abandonment of marginal farmlands) the provision of public goods cannot be taken for granted anymore. Policy action is needed to counteract these developments and to avoid e.g. the continuous decline of many species and habitats, water scarcity, forest fires, soil erosion, as well as the exodus of people from rural to urban centres.

In this respect, agricultural and rural development policies have an important potential to contribute to the provision of public goods which is more and more recognised by the public at large.

The Thematic Working Group 3 (TWG3) on ‘Public Goods and Public Intervention’ was set up in early 2009, to address the issue of ‘public goods’ and to examine how EU rural development policy contributes to it. The TWG3, comprising national experts, NGO representatives, and chaired by the Commission (Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural development – DG AGRI) was supported by analytical work provided by scientific experts.

A concluding seminar took place on December 2010. The scope of the seminar was to present the outcomes of the work to a larger group of stakeholders, and to clarify the notion of Public Goods to a wider audience. It also demonstrated that the conceptual framework of public goods provides for common grounds in discussions about the CAP and Rural Development. 

Key findings

Some key findings of the TWG included:

  • Rural development, as part of the Common Agricultural Policy, offers a range of effective measures to encourage the application of environmentally sound farming systems, management practices, as well as investments favourable for the provision of public goods.
  • A number of these measures, in particular agri-environment measures, create positive spillover effects on rural activities, stimulating employment, tourism and the production of value added products.
  • Developing skills and knowledge of land managers, such as training in environmental management techniques or advice on sustainable use of resources, proved to be particularly effective in engendering behavioural change.
  • Care is needed in designing the measures which have to be selected and implemented according to local needs. In view of ensuring an effective, efficient and transparent implementation of those measures, it is of essence to have a working monitoring and evaluation system in place.
  • The most prominent policy measure, contributing to the provision of environmental public goods in the field of agriculture, is agri-environment measures, encouraging environmental services and the use of environmentally sound farming practices. The success of the measure lies in its flexibility and in its potential to be designed according to local needs.

Main reports

  • TWG3 Status Report – November 2010 [PDF ]
  • TWG3 Conceptual Framework [PDF ]
  • TWG3 Final Report [PDF ]

Dissemination of results

  • TWG3 leaflet [PDF ]
  • Synthesis report, while being still ‘technical’ in content, addresses a targeted public with the aim of presenting the findings of the TWG3 in a more concise and ready-to-use fashion. [PDF ]

  • Brochure on Public Goods and Public Intervention in Agriculture [PDF ]


  • Power Point Presentation on Public Goods and Public Intervention in Agriculture [PPT ](*) + [PDF ]

(*) Please note that the file is protected against further editing. For using it just open it (double click) and click on the “Read only” button.

Click here for more information [PDF ]

Related Information

  • TWG1: Targeting rural territorial specificities and needs
  • TWG2: Links between agriculture and the wider rural economy
  • TWG4: Delivery mechanisms of EU Rural Development Policy