People in Agriculture

Characteristics of individual producers influence decisions, although how they impact decisions appears to depend on the population's location and other features. A great deal of research has been conducted about CRP enrollment and results suggest that age, education, off-farm work, and environmental awareness effect both enrollment and post-CRP land use decisions.

In contrast, less is known about the sociological factors influencing adoption of conservation tillage, as well as the rationales of those who have not.

Several models have been proposed to predict the conservation behavior of farmers and ranchers:

Diffusion - argues that farmers who have better access to information are more likely to adopt conservation practices because they are more aware of both the problem and the potential solutions
Farm Structure - argues that the type of farm operation, the availability of economic resources and appropriate skills, and the agricultural policies in place all influence conservation adoption behaviors
Sociodemographic - examines the relationship between conservation adoption and factors such as age and education level of the farmer or rancher

In a study examining all three models, they argue that the current state of agriculture in the United States – the continuing shift from small, diverse farms to large, specialized operations – makes decision-making difficult for many farmers and ranchers torn between economic and environmental concerns.

Farmers are not a homogeneous group and their reactions to conservation decisions differ; thus their attitudes and behaviors regarding conservation must be examined if effective conservation programs are to be developed.

Photo courtesy of USDA-NRCS

Sources for more information:

Camboni, Silvana M. and Ted L. Napier. 1993. Factors affecting use of conservation farming practices in east central Ohio . Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 45(1993):79-94.

McCann, Elizabeth. 1997. Environmental Awareness, Economic Orientation, and Farming Practices: A Comparison of Organic and Conventional Farmers. Environmental Management 21(5):747-758.

Napier, Ted L. and Silvana M. Camboni. 1994. The Socioeconomics of Soil and Water Conservation in the United States. In Adopting Conservation on the Farm: An International Perspective on the Socioeconomics of Soil and Water Conservation. T.L. Napier, S.M. Camboni, and S.A. El-Swaify, eds. Pp. 59-74. Ankeny, Iowa: Soil and Water Conservation Society.

Napier, Ted L. and Silvana M. Camboni. 1993. Use of conventional and conservation practices among farmers in the Scioto River Basin of Ohio. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 48(3):231-237.

Napier, Ted L., M. Tucker and S. McCarter. 2000. Adoption of Conservation Production Systems in Three Midwest Watersheds. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 55(2):123-134.

Nowak, Peter J. 1987. The Adoption of Agricultural Conservation Technologies: Economic and Diffusion Explanations. Rural Sociology 52(2):208-220.

Pampel, Fred and J.C. van Es. 1977. Environmental Quality and Issues of Adoption Research. Rural Sociology 42(1):57-71.