Consumption is the reason why anything is produced. Consumers are at the end of the value chain and represent the biggest actor group. Their demand influences soil quality and quantity, because soil is the basis of many products.

One may distinguish between different administrative levels of State activity:

  • European Union (enacts legislation and guidelines which have to be integrated in national laws and programmes)
  • Federation (national principles and legislation)
  • Federal states (state planning, principles and binding goals in spatial structure         plans)
  • Regions (regional planning, objectives and intentions of the regions)
  • Municipalities (Municipal Development Planning, Land Use Planning, preparatory land use and development plans)

Furthermore, there are different specific public entities relevant for soil management:

  • Ministries (of agriculture, environment…)
  • Public research institutions for environmental or agricultural focus
  • Public extension and advisory services

State-made policy institutions are a major component of the soil governance system. Policy targets different actor groups, and via steering their behaviour influences soil management directly and indirectly.

The State has different options to directly influence the allocation of land and the accompanying soil management. The most drastic measure is expropriation, used as a measure of last resort to align land use and soil management with public interests. A less drastic option is re-arrangement by land consolidation (Binder 2018), i.e. re-design, dislocation and merging of land parcels. This approach leaves property rights untouched, only the subject of the real property rights is changed. In Germany these management options are based on planning law (Land Consolidation Act and Federal Code).

Spatial planning is an important tool of the State’s involvement in land use and soil management. In Germany, urban and rural agricultural differ with respect to prerogatives of the planning administration (Möckel 2013; Bartkowski et al. 2018). For urban planning a specific development plan is drawn up that is binding and has specific restrictions what and in which way may be built on the land. In contrast, for agricultural land only protected areas can be determined – it is not possible to influence agricultural activities on the land by means of planning.

In addition to (re-)allocation of land to private users, the State can also own land. In Germany there is no publicly available statistical information for real-estate property; thus, it is difficult to say how much land belongs to the State. Nonetheless, publicly owned land has direct relevance to soil protection as here, the State can easily influence soil management. In Eastern Germany formerly public agricultural land has been privatized since Unification. Privatization is supposed to help farmers through purchasing land to ensure their economic activity. This process is managed by the association for re-development of land property (Bodenverwertungs- und –verwaltungs GmbH, BVVG). Since 1992, 861.400 ha agricultural land was sold mostly to farmers. Meanwhile, the share of land from BVVG in the affected federal states is on average 2 per cent.

A more indirect but potentially strong influence of the state on the use of natural resources, including soils, is public procurement – public organizations and authorities are a large source of demand for various consumer products, including e.g. food in canteens or materials for building and equipment (e.g. Lindström et al. 2020). Many of these products have consequences for land use and soil management.

The behaviour and political decisions of public authorities (governments at different administrative levels) are influenced by many different factors and there are many theories explaining it. While the State derives its legitimacy from democratic institutions (such as elections), its decisions are also influenced by lobbying, media and other determinants (Downs 1957; Olson 1962). Furthermore, State actions are often influenced by path dependencies and institutional frictions resulting from previous, possibly seemingly unrelated decisions.

The State tries to steer the behaviour of other actors in accordance with societal goals. Furthermore, it relies on the context-specific knowledge of various actor groups. The State needs the knowledge to govern and decide about changing or using new policy measures. Therefore the government communicates with scientists, farmers’ associations, consumer associations, NGOs and the industry. It is possible for the actor groups to influence by means of lobbying the State and its decisions.

in progress ...


  • Bartkowski, B., Hansjürgens, B., Möckel, S., Bartke, S., 2018. Institutional Economics of Agricultural Soil Ecosystem Services. Sustainability 10, 2447. doi:10.3390/su10072447
  • Binder, S., 2018. Flurbereinigungsplanung und Ökosystemschutz als Rechts- und Governance-Problem. Metropolis-Verlag, Marburg.
  • BVGG (Bodenverwertungs- und –verwaltungs GmbH) (2018): Zahlen und Fakten 2017.
  • Downs, A., 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. Harper, New York.
  • Juerges, N., Hansjürgens, B. (2016): Soil governance in the transition towards a sustainable bioeconomy - A review. Journal of Cleaner Production. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.10.143
  • Kutter, T., Louwagie, G., Schuler, J., Zander, P., Helming, K., Hecker, J.-M., 2011. Policy measures for agricultural soil conservation in the European Union and its member states: Policy review and classification. Land Degradation and Development 22: 18–31. doi:10.1002/ldr.1015
  • Lindström, H., Lundberg, S., Marklund, P.-O., 2020. How Green Public Procurement can drive conversion of farmland: An empirical analysis of an organic food policy. Ecological Economics 172: 106622. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2020.106622
  • Möckel, S., 2013. Erfordernis einer umfassenden außenverbindlichen Bodennutzungsplanung auch für nichtbauliche Bodennutzungen. Öffentliche Verwaltung 11: 424–436.
  • Olson, M., 1965. The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.