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Structural Conservation Practices in U.S. Corn Production: Evidence on Environmental Stewardship by Program Participants and Non-Participants

By Glenn D. Schaible, C.S. Kim and Dayton M. Lambert


This study used the 2005 ERS CEAP-ARMS data for corn production to first compare key operator, field, farm, economic, and environmental characteristics of conservation program participants with non-participants, by farm-size class. We then estimate a cost-function based technology adoption model of producer decisions regarding the allocation of field-level acres between corn production and infield and perimeter-field conservation structures to examine how these conservation choices differ between program participants and non-participants, while accounting for differences in other field, farm, and environmental factors. Our null hypothesis is that the average conservation structural practice acres across U.S. corn acres supplied by growers participating in a conservation program are not different from non-participants. Infield conservation structures include terraces, grassed waterways, vegetative buffers, contour buffers, filter strips, and grade stabilization structures. Perimeter-field conservation structures include hedgerow plantings, stream-side forest and herbaceous buffers, windbreaks and herbaceous wind barriers, field borders, and critical area plantings. Because the dependent variable in this analysis is continuous, we use a Generalized Estimating Equations (GEE) procedure to estimate two models. The GEE estimation procedure (Liang and Zeger, 1986) accounts for correlation between adoption decisions measured as a continuous variable while maintaining the theoretical integrity of a multinomial discrete-choice model typically used in technology adoption studies. The cost-function models estimate field-level, producer acreage allocation decisions for corn, first, as a function of normalized production input costs (prices) and structural technology class and installation time-period attributes (Model 1), and second, as a function of Model 1 variables plus socio-environmental variables reflecting the potential influence of a variety of field, farm, and environmental characteristics (Model 2). Evidence indicates significant characteristic differences exist between conservation program participants and non-participants across U.S. corn production, that non-program factors do heavily influence producer conservation practice decisions, and that farm-size matters. In addition, results suggest that program non-participants tend to adopt infield conservation structures much more intensively while program participants emphasize the adoption of perimeter-field conservation structures. Finally, these results seem to suggest that because perimeter-field structural practices can involve differential productivity/cost effects and off-site benefits, program incentives may need to play a greater role in encouraging their adoption than they do for infield structural practices.Crop Production/Industries, Environmental Economics and Policy,

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