With an agricultural policy that is largely shaped by the Confederation, Switzerland’s federalist structures are only marginally noticeable. Even so, depending on their location, farms can take part in certain cantonal programmes whilst making use of the direct-payment instruments of the Confederation. With the aim of promoting and steering regional agriculture according to local needs, numerous individual funding programmes have been created which have never before been centrally documented. Now, through personal interviews with cantonal agricultural offices, agricultural policy instruments with a local focus have been recorded. Our survey shows that the cantons make use of the Swiss federal funding programme for innovative projects for their own support measures, but are seldom active beyond this. A lack of financial resources is often cited as a reason for the at-times low cantonal involvement. Regional bee- and crop-protection projects are the most common. There are major differences in the cantons’ annual financial participation in direct payments. This is estimated at a total of CHF 76 million for 2016, a trivial sum compared to federal budget for agriculture. Consequently, the influence of cantonal policy instruments on agricultural structures is likely to be fairly minor.
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.