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Land Use Policy
Vol. 43, 2015, Pages: 197–206

Development of organic farming for the protection of water quality: Local projects in France and their policy implications

Audrey Vincent, Philippe Fleury

ISARA-Lyon, Département ASTER (Agriculture, Systèmes alimentaires et Territoires), Laboratoire d’Etudes Rurales, Lyon, France.


French public action privileges organic farming in areas with water quality problems as a way to prevent diffuse agricultural pollution. This article compares four projects connecting organic farming incentives with water quality protection. It aims at elucidating how concerned actors compromise with and implement public policy in locally specific ways. Our results show that these projects may come from two logics of public action. The first, supported by water-related actors, aims to improve drinking water quality and is focused on water catchments. The second is backed primarily by actors in agriculture and focuses on re-enforcing actions for the development of organic agriculture, carried out on a larger territorial scale. Actor networks involved in the projects differ according to local contexts, project backers, and objectives. They become more complex over time, leading actors for water, organic agricultural development, and economic production chains to work together. Actors’ visions and referentials change, influencing the projects’ initial objectives. The conclusion discusses such projects’ relevance and limits.

Keywords: Organic farming; Water quality; Public policy; Actor networks; Project dynamics.

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