Ag Innovations

Reports & Papers

Regulating for Agricultural and Public Outcomes: Perspectives and Recommendations

Image representing Regulating for Agricultural and Public Outcomes: Perspectives and Recommendations

In an effort to address increasing frustration about the complexity and ineffectiveness of the regulatory system affecting agriculture, Ag Innovations conducted research, held focused listening sessions with agricultural, conservation, and government agency representatives, and held a statewide stakeholder summit to build a better understanding of the experiences, challenges, and recommended solutions of each stakeholder group. This work culminated in a 2014 report entitled Regulating for Agricultural and Public Outcomes: Perspectives and Recommendations, which summarizes the perspectives conveyed by each stakeholder group, identifies areas of agreement among the groups, and presents recommendations for constructively addressing key regulatory challenges in both the short and long term.

Project: Regulations Affecting Agriculture

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“Ag Innovations has the facilitation expertise required to solve complex problems by bringing groups together for collaborative action.”
Corny Gallagher, Bank of America Merrill Lynch


The regulatory environment has been a longstanding concern for agricultural producers. From a farmer’s perspective, the montage of regulations affecting their business is often cumbersome and confusing, can stifle environmental performance, and can delay innovative projects. The cost of compliance with regulations is frequently cited as a major barrier to the viability and profitability of California farmers.

Meanwhile, members of the conservation community express concern that existing regulations do not achieve a sufficient level of environmental protection and can impede projects of public benefit.

Regulators acknowledge the problems conveyed by both agricultural and conservation communities. However, they report that the static nature of current laws and regulations does not provide the flexibility or adaptability needed to address the dynamic problems society faces today. Limited resources and competing mandates further compromise regulators' ability to address many of the challenges. 

Through research and engagement with key stakeholder groups on challenges and opportunities, it became clear that both immediate and long-term solutions are needed to address the regulatory system affecting agriculture.

Regulating for Agricultural and Public Outcomes: Perspectives and Recommendations presents an immediate call-to-action, intended to relieve the sense of burden or frustration experienced by each stakeholder group. Near-term remedies include:

  • Reducing conflict and increasing innovation by building understanding among stakeholder groups
  • Reducing regulatory "friction" by improving interagency coordination
  • Reducing the cost of complying with regulations by creating vehicles to easily discover and navigate regulatory requirements

The report also looks beyond the current regulatory system to envision how societal goals might better be accomplished within a new, ideal regulatory framework. Characteristics of a modern regulatory system include:

  • Responds to society's goals
  • Is an integrated system
  • Considers net benefits over time
  • Incentivizes beneficial behavior
  • Is outcome- and risk-based
  • Encourages shared understanding
  • Provides good customer service