Social-Economic Research Work Plan

Date: 
Feb 2013

Issue

Widespread adoption of conservation practices identified in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is needed to show progress in improving Iowa’s water quality. To achieve this adoption, a better understanding is needed of both the economic and noneconomic factors that motivate farmers and landowners to voluntarily adopt practices.

Objective

A social-economic research team will conduct three projects that will provide useful information to the state of Iowa’s nutrient reduction efforts. One objective is the development of a long-term socio-economic study to assess the key drivers of adoption decisions and improved water quality in watersheds.

Approach

The first project will analyze existing data to develop a more complete understanding of Iowa farmers’ current management strategies and attitudes toward innovative approaches to managing nutrients and soil health. The primary data set will be the annual Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll at Iowa State University. The second project will use economic tools of non-market valuation (the estimation of the value of goods and services that are not routinely bought and sold, such as water quality) to estimate the benefits of water quality improvement that result from nutrient reduction strategies. Where possible, the benefits of additional ecosystem services, such as carbon benefits and wildlife habitat, also will be included. The third project will study the adoption decisions of farmers within the priority watersheds in Iowa. The research will compare four geographically different HUC 12 agricultural watersheds, working with about 10 farmers within each watershed. Cooperating farmers, with assistance from a watershed specialist, will gather economic, agronomic and productivity data on their farm enterprises. Performance measures for phosphorus and nitrogen will provide feedback to the farmers to illustrate the effects of their management practices.

Project Updates

June 2016

FINAL REPORT

Three tasks were funded by this project. First, a more complete understanding of Iowa farmers’ current management strategies and attitudes toward innovative approaches to management nutrients and soil health was developed. This was done by analyzing data from the 2012 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, plus interviews with 20 recipients of the Iowa Farm Environmental Leadership Award. For the second task, the monetary benefits of nutrient reduction practices identified in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (INRS) were determined. In the third task, interviews with 38 farmers in four watersheds were conducted to determine current practices and willingness to adopt practices identified in the strategy. A summary report is complete. As a baseline measure, the study shows the INRS has begun to reach farmers with name recognition, and in many instances, shows there is a willingness and commitment to reduce off-field, off-farm nutrient losses.

March 2016

Three tasks were funded as part of this overall research project. The one task yet to complete is to assess the drivers of acceptance and adoption of conservation practices. The first phase of this task involved interviews with 38 farmers in four watersheds to determine current practices and willingness to adopt practices identified in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. A summary technical report is underway. The second phase of this task will get underway once that report is complete. A new component of this research effort will be possible because of the USDA’s Economic Research Service. Federal funds will be used for an experiment designed to elicit the minimum “willingness-to-accept” per acre for the adoption of cover crops, plus the effect of various other incentives.

December 2015

Two of the three tasks funded within this research plan are complete. First, a more complete understanding of Iowa farmers’ current management strategies and attitudes toward innovative approaches to management nutrients and soil health has been developed. This was done by analyzing data from the 2012 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, plus interviews with 20 recipients of the Iowa Farm Environmental Leadership Award. Information has been shared in more than 10 presentations, two extension reports, a master’s thesis and four journal article manuscripts. For the second task, the monetary benefits of nutrient reduction practices identified in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy have been determined. In the third task, interviews with 38 farmers in four watersheds have been conducted to determine current practices and willingness to adopt practices identified in the strategy. Data is being analyzed. 

September 2015

Three tasks were funded as part of this overall research plan. One task was to develop a more complete understanding of Iowa farmers’ current management strategies and attitudes toward innovative approaches to management nutrients and soil health. This was done by analyzing data from the 2012 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, plus in-depth interviews with 20 recipients of the Iowa Farm Environmental Leadership Award. The second task was to evaluate the monetary benefits of nutrient reduction practices identified in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The list of ecosystem services included in this evaluation included such things as water quality benefits for recreation, drinking water cost savings, wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration. Revisions on a draft report are underway. In the third task, interviews with 40 farmers – 10 each in four watersheds – were conducted this summer to determine current practices and willingness to adopt practices identified in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Data are being loaded into a spreadsheet for analysis by the social-economic team.

June 2015

Work continues on a project to evaluate the monetary benefits of nutrient reduction practices identified in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The list of ecosystem services evaluated includes water quality benefits for recreation and for local aesthetic value, drinking water cost savings, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration and possibly flood benefits. A strategy for monetizing each of these benefits has been developed, and preliminary results are being analyzed. In another project, interviews with 40 farmers – 10 each in four watersheds – will be conducted this summer to determine current practices and willingness to adopt practices identified in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. 

March 2015

Analysis of 2014 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll data on farmer perspectives on the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy was completed and a report released in December. In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 Iowa Farm Environmental Leadership Award recipients, and data analysis is underway. Work on a project to evaluate the monetary benefits of nutrient reduction strategies has begun. A list of ecosystem services to be included in this evaluation includes such things as water quality benefits for recreation and for local aesthetic value, drinking water cost savings, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration and possibly flood benefits.

December 2014

One project is designed to establish a more complete understanding of Iowa farmers’ current management strategies and attitudes toward innovative approaches to managing nutrients and soil health. Analysis of 2014 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll data on farmer perspectives on the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is underway. Twenty in-depth interviews with Iowa Farm Environmental Leadership Award recipients also were conducted.

September 2014

One project is designed to establish a more complete understanding of Iowa farmers’ current management strategies and attitudes toward innovative approaches to managing nutrients and soil health. A technical report that presents analysis of the 2012 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll data on Iowa farmers’ nitrogen management practices was published in May 2014. Data collection is underway with 40 farmers in selected watersheds regarding current practices and willingness to adopt practices identified in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

June 2014

One project is designed to establish a more complete understanding of Iowa farmers’ current management strategies and attitudes toward innovative approaches to managing nutrients and soil health. Farmer nutrient management strategies data from the 2012 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll were analyzed and selected results reported through the presentation, “Investigating Iowa Farmers’ Use of Nutrient Management Strategies: Results from the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll,” given at the Iowa Water Conference on March 3, 2014. Preliminary estimates of the benefits associated with recreational improvements at 130 of Iowa’s primary lakes are nearly complete. A strategy for estimating the water quality improvement benefits for those who live near lakes also is nearly ready. Data collection is underway with 40 farmers in selected watersheds regarding current practices and willingness to adopt practices identified in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

March 2014

 

Existing data from three sources was used to develop a more complete understanding of Iowa farmers’ current management strategies and attitudes toward innovative approaches to managing nutrients and soil health. Initial results were presented November 20, 2013, to the Iowa Water Resources Coordinating Council. A complete report will be released this spring.

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