Increasing penetration by the market into the governing of agri-environments, and the use of market-oriented approaches in an attempt to produce more sustainable outcomes, is a characteristic feature of what scholars have called the ‘neoliberalisation of nature’. While accepting that neoliberal forms of governing tend to extend market relations into new domains, a number of scholars have argued that they may at the same time create spaces of resistance, open up progressive political possibilities, or incorporate alternative rationalities of governing. This literature has so far focused primarily on the policy and/or programme level with limited connection made to the growing body of research that explores landholder responses to specific market instruments. We address this gap by focusing on a market instrument – Wimmera Habitat Tender – in the State of Victoria, Australia, which aims to provide incentives for farmers in managing native vegetation. This case study explores how a specific tender-based market instrument seeks to construct natural resource managers as neoliberal subjects, as well as the complex ways in which farmers contest or resist the neoliberal governing of their agri-environmental practices. Through our analysis we contend that closer scrutiny of how the techniques underpinning market-based environmental instruments are taken up or resisted contributes to a more robust understanding of the environmental possibilities created by market instruments, as well as the challenges involved in attempts to neoliberalise nature.
market instruments, neoliberalisation, agricultural land management, Australia