Participation in voluntary ecological or landscape conservation programmes incurs production and opportunity costs which can vary significantly depending on farm structure and region. Precise knowledge about the level of the individual-farm performance costs helps agricultural-policy decisionmakers to set and calculate direct-payment contributions for the programmes in a focused manner. This paper quantifies the performance costs on the basis of individual-farm optimisation models for a total of 3200 Swiss farms and compares them to the direct-payment contributions in 2016. Depending on region, 10–27% of all farms can cover their performance costs for low-input meadows in full via the direct-payment contribution quality level 1 (Q1). Of the lowland farms, 43% can offset their performance costs for wildflower strips with direct-payment contributions. Twenty-six per cent of lowland farms can cover their performance costs for standard fruit trees on medium-input meadows or pastures via the Q1 direct-payment contribution. Since a high percentage of commercial dairy farms participating in the programme for grassland-based milk and meat production (GMF) can meet the GMF requirements without additional costs, the share found here – 63% – is considerably higher.
Policies to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions are more effective and more efficient if they are set at the regional level and not at the level of individual farms. This can help achieve climate targets.
Global food availability is expected to remain stable in the medium term. Food security challenges in Switzerland include the decline in agricultural land area per capita, higher incidence of extreme weather events and increased pressure from pests.
Different cultural backgrounds lead to different uptake of biodiversity agri-environmental schemes at the inner-Swiss French-German language border. Economic policy incentives could mitigate culture-driven behavioral differences.