The objective of the Sustainable agriculture and rural development: the socio-economic dimension (SUSTAG) action is to support Commission services in the area of socio-economic analysis of farms/households and rural development by improving and further developing ex-ante and ex-post quantitative/qualitative policy analysis tools, and by providing a stable platform for these tools that will make them readily available for Commission services.
SUSTAG focuses on the institutional, social, economic aspects of farming in the enlarged EU and in the context of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Rural Development Policy. It analyses farmers' response to policy changes, emerging farmers' techniques, technological progress and market opportunities.
In its rural development research agenda, SUSTAG departs substantially from the traditional agricultural sector focus towards broader rural economy and society. Rural development policy analysis and policy making are supported particularly through the characterisation and development of a typology of rural areas as a basis for a future modelling of the rural economies. A new research area is governance of rural development reflecting issues associated with the increasing societal demands for countryside and rural services.
Throughout the SUSTAG work, particular attention is paid to the specific agricultural and rural development problems in the New Member States and Candidate Countries including the future of semi-subsistence farming.
Under this heading, SUSTAG supports Commission Services in analysing the transition of agriculture from the high production paradigm to sustainable farming systems. The work will concentrate in the following two directions:
i) the assessment of the farm-level impact of EU policies (particularly the CAP reform) from the socio-economic perspective, including income distribution effects, structural development, competitiveness improvements and farmers' investment strategies;
ii) improving the understanding of how farmers can adopt environmentally sustainable practices (particularly those associated with soil conservation) under the economic pressure of competition and a variety of geographical, social and institutional settings across the EU.
Referring to the second direction, the Sustainable Agriculture and Soil Conservation (SoCo) project started in 2007 upon request of the Commission and the European Parliament in September has come to its dissemination phase. More information is available at http://soco.jrc.ec.europa.eu
SUSTAG is currently concentrated on three themes:
i) Typology of rural areas and indicators of sustainable rural development in the enlarged EU;
ii) Modelling of rural economies and assessment of policy impacts. SUSTAG is considering the EU-wide typology of rural areas with an ultimate objective to provide a solid base for rural development foresight and spatial impact assessment (modelling) of rural policies. In parallel, SUSTAG is developing quantitative impact assessment tools/socio-economic models;
iii) Institutions and governance of rural development, with a particular focus on rural and cross border local development approaches in the Western Balkans.