Cows might fly

Veronique Greenwood, reporting for Aeon:

The Swiss government did not want to expose their farmers to the open market, to put them in direct competition, in the case of cow farmers, with ranchers around the world with far more land and the ability to grow animals cheaply. A workaround was devised.

The market supports to local agriculture would end, yes. But the farmers would be paid directly by the government for something else. They would be paid for, among other things, keeping the mountain pastures clear of trees, keeping the forests clear of the cows, and keeping the water clean. They would be paid for keeping land in agriculture, for treating their animals well, and for maintaining the social structure in rural areas. It is a way of thinking about the use of the land that environmental scholars and policymakers call ‘payments for ecosystem services’. In essence, the Swiss government rewards farmers for the maintenance of the landscape — both environmental and cultural.

Interesting article on the importance of a government system to continue farming in Switzerland and the comparison with North America. Scale matters.