Title: Assessment Of Western Farmers’ Use, Knowledge, And Acceptance Of Cover Crops And The Agri-Environmental Schemes That Support Their Use
Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy and Administration
Advisor: Dr. Monica Hubbard, School of Public Service
Committee Members: Dr. Rebecca Som Castellano, Sociology and Dr. Jeffrey Lyons, School of Public Service
Agri-environmental schemes (AESs), which pay farmers to adopt conservation practices, are increasingly important environmental and agricultural policy tools. Despite large budgetary shares allocated to these programs, studies identify lower-than-expected environmental outcomes. In the US, reasons for low environmental outcomes include low participation rates, lack of program awareness, and poor targeting levels. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the largest conservation program in the US, highly promotes cover crops, as this practice has many benefits to water, air, and soil quality. The western US is a large cropping region where data on cover crop use and AES participation are lacking. Using a survey of western US farmers, this paper provides an analysis on use of cover crops, awareness, and participation in cover crop AES. Based on the results of the 894 survey responses, we find most respondents use or have used cover crops, with the highest motivators being the soil health benefits and reducing soil erosion. The top barriers to cover crop use are costs and lack of knowledge. Using a logistical regression, the predictors of cover crop use in the west include larger farm size, farmers who regularly access agriculture-related information, and perceive more benefits than barriers to cover crops. For AES, the survey indicates that participation is low due to lack of awareness and policy barriers. Predictors of AES participation include frequent contact with NRCS, having a succession plan, and a positive attitude toward governments’ role in conservation programs. This study informs future research on cover crop use and policy design that influence adoption of conservation practices.