Do European PES help reduce herbicide use? Evidence from a natural experiment in France

Laure Kuhfuss (Univresity of St Andrews, UK)

Payments for Environmental Services (PES) are a central component of the environmental policy of the European Union, but few of these programs have been carefully evaluated and doubts are often expressed about the effectiveness of voluntary programs. We use original data collected from almost all winegrowers participating in a PES targeting nonpoint source pollution from herbicides in 2011 and 2012 in the South region of France. We use exogenous variation in the timing of the implementation of the program as a natural experiment. We show that the quantity of herbicides used by participants in the program in 2012 was around 30 percent below what they would have used without the program, while the impact was significantly higher in 2011 - around 50 percent. We moreover find that the impact associated with the least stringent measure, which is also the most often chosen one, becomes statistically insignificant when the weed pressure is low.