Hang Xiong and his team reveal the mechanisms underlying farmers’ land transfer

Recently, Prof. Hang Xiong and his team publish a paper on Management World (one of the top Chinese journal in management and economic science). In this paper, they use an agent-based model to reveal the mechanisms underlying farmers’ decision-making in spontaneous farmland transfer and bottom-up farmland concentration at the village level.

Abstract: Profound understanding of the mechanisms underlying farmers’ land transfer decision-making is of great importance for improving farmland transfer policies. However, the existing studies focus on the results of land transfer and lack in-depth investigation of the decision-making process and behavioral mechanisms. This study uses a simulation model to simulate the behavior rules and dynamic processes of farmers’ land transfer under the background of urbanization and rural aging. Being calibrated with real data, the model is validated by matching its outputs with farmland transfer data in sample villages. The preliminary application of the model in several scenarios provides intuitive reference for farmland transfer policy-making. This study reveals the mechanisms underlying farmers’ decision-making in spontaneous farmland transfer and bottom-up farmland concentration at the village level. It provides a benchmark model for examining the mechanisms and processes of farmland transfer and concentration in more complex conditions. The model can be a powerful tool for the pre-evaluation of farmland transfer policies.

Keywords: spontaneous farmland transfer; rural aging; urbanization; simulation model; agent-based modeling

1. Background
Agricultural land circulation is the only way of agricultural scale management in China, which provides the necessary basic conditions for realizing agricultural and rural modernization and rural industry revitalization. The transfer of land contract management right is an important decision for farmers to reconfigure household production factors under the condition of changing management constraints, which reflects the micro-process of optimizing the allocation of agricultural resources in China under the dynamic macro situation. Literatures focus on the result of land transfer, and generally use econometric models to analyze its influencing factors, lacking explicit and intuitive analysis of the decision-making process and behavior mechanism of rural household land transfer, and it is difficult to describe the dynamic process of the change of land management right structure and land concentration at the village level. Compared with the econometric model, the computer simulation model can more systematically describe the complex characteristics and variable relationships involved in farmer household land transfer, and can intuitively simulate the dynamic process of land transfer.
2. Modelling
The model constructed by ABM method is called agent-based model. The model constructed in this study simulates the process of farmers’ spontaneous land transfer in a village based on the understanding of the decision-making mechanism of farmers’ land transfer. The core components of such models are agents (also known as agents) and rules of behavior. In the model, according to the turnover intention (determined by two factors, the degree of non-agriculture and the age of the household head), the farmers are divided into three types: transfer-in households, transfer-out households and non-transfer households. The rules of behavior of these three types of farmers are as follows: (1) The transfer-in household transfers to land from the transfer-out household with the adjacent land, and stops transferring to land when the operating area reaches its optimal operating scale. (2) When the transferee reaches a certain age level, it will reserve a certain proportion of land for the land needed to meet its own food rations and then transfer all the rest of the land, and the transferee less than the age level will transfer all the land; The transfer of land ceases when there is no land to be transferred. (3) Non-transferable households do not participate in land transfer.
Each iteration of the model starts with updating the circulation intention of all farmers. In a decision-making and action cycle, each individual of the two types of households carries out the transfer or transfer behavior according to certain rules, and the non-transfer households do not carry out any behavior. All the transferred farmers make decisions and actions according to the corresponding behavior rules one by one in random order, and all farmers update the land area, non-agricultural degree and age after the end. The completion of a cycle of the model is equivalent to the completion of a round of land transfer transactions. When all the transferred farmers have reached the optimal scale of operation or all the transferred farmers have no land available for circulation, the model will stop running.
3. Conclusions and policy implication
The following conclusions can be drawn from this study. First, a mechanism of farmers’ spontaneous land transfer is revealed: farmers’ willingness to transfer increases with the increase of their non-agricultural degree, increases first with the increase of age and then decreases, so as to determine the transfer into households and transfer out of households. Second, compared with the econometric model of farmers’ land transfer behavior, this model can more fully depict the heterogeneity of farmers’ age, non-farm employment degree and cultivated land ownership, and more directly reflect the interactive transactions between transferred-in households and transferred-out households. Thirdly, the model can predict the transfer behavior of farmers and the results of village land concentration under different policies of agricultural land transfer support, carry out the pre-evaluation of the effect of policy implementation, and provide intuitive enlightenment for the formulation of agricultural land transfer policies. The preliminary application of this model shows its ability to depict the land transfer results under different scenarios such as changing the optimal management scale, canceling the ration field and changing the village scale. Under the simulation conditions with more actual data support, this model can be used to carry out more detailed policy simulation experiments, providing a targeted reference for policy formulation.
4. Contribution
This study has three levels of marginal contributions: At the theoretical level, it reveals the behavioral mechanism of farmers to carry out spontaneous land transfer, and shows the dynamic process of land concentration in rural areas under the background of urbanization and aging labor force, which helps to scientifically understand the basic law of agricultural land transfer. At the method level, a simulation model is constructed to simulate the nonlinear land transfer behavior of heterogeneous farmers and investigate the bottom-up dynamic process of rural land centralization. This model can be used as a benchmark model to expand the circulation operation scenario that is more complex and closer to reality. At the practical level, it provides a useful tool for carrying out policy simulation experiments to evaluate the implementation effect of different rural land transfer policies.

6月7日,中国经济管理领域的顶刊之一《管理世界》2023年第6期发表了熊航教授及其团队的研究论文“The Mechanism Underlying Farmers’ Spontaneous Land Transfer: Simulation, Validation and Application”。


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