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This dissertation analyzes the policy designs and economic benefits of a land conservation practice called prairie strips. The first chapter investigates the impact of policy designs on individual household preferences. The study measures the value that Iowa residents place on the ecosystem services of prairie strips and determines if that value changes under different policy designs. The policy design treatment varies in who runs the program and who has enrollment priority. The willingness to pay (WTP) for ecosystem services is estimated using stated preferences from a choice experiment. Results indicate significant public support for expanding and funding the prairie strips program under all policy designs. WTP for the program is highest for the management by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and enrollment priority to the landowners with good environmental stewardship in the past.
The second chapter analyzes the role of farming experiences, conservation experiences, and satisfaction of the existing status of the environment in explaining variation in preferences of prairie strips. The results suggest that those with farm experiences prefer new conservation alternatives significantly more than without farm experiences. Similarly, individuals who have past experience with conservation activities or education have substantially higher preference for water quality-related attributes. There is a significant inverse relationship between environmental satisfaction and preferences for all the ecosystem services.
The last chapter examines the role of spatial variability of profit and crop insurance premium on site-specific land retirement decisions for a land retirement program such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). It uses site-specific input and output data from a precision agriculture experimental plot in Illinois. The study introduces a decision framework to include site-specific yield and insurance premium cost in land retirement decisions. The findings indicate that using site-specific insurance premium costs benefits farmers by creating a different optimal land retirement plan with higher net profit. It also reduces the expense of insurance premiums. The new decision framework, thus, advises farmers on the best location and amount of farmland to enroll in CRP for a higher overall benefit.
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