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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has implemented conservation programs through Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA). Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) are some of them. These programs provide financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to adopt land management practices that generate environmental benefits. In this study, we explore the determinants of participation in conservation programs (CRP, CSP, EQIP) in Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska. For this, we use a unique survey-based data set comprising observations from row crop farmers in these states. We are interested in this issue since participation in conservation programs is a complex decision driven by factors dependent upon the nature of the operation as well as the attributes of the operator. For example, current farming practices, the size of the farms, education, and income from farming are associated with the willingness to participate in conservation programs (Gladkikh et al., 2020; Gyawali et al., 2003; Wang et al., 2021). Additionally, Dessart et al., (2019) have emphasized the role of behavioral factors in influencing producers' adoption of sustainable land use practices. Gladkikh, et al. (2020) also suggest exploring environmental attitudes in future research. Therefore, in addition to
demographic and socio-economic variables, we investigate the impact of attitudinal and behavioral factors on the decision to participate in conservation programs. The non-attitudinal variables considered include age, size of owned and rented land acreage, education level of the operator, years of farming experience, income from the farm, gross annual income, participation in crop insurance, and past participation in any conservation program. The socio-behavioral and environmental variables include whether the operator prioritizes profit maximization or cost minimization as their main objective and the extent to which they prioritize environmental benefits or economic benefits generated from their choice of participation. Taken together, these variables are used to estimate a logistic regression model where the dependent variable takes a value of 1 if the respondent participated at the time of the survey in a conservation program and 0 otherwise. The logistic regression analysis was performed for three conservation programs individually. The results show that the farm size, level of income, economic benefits associated with participation, two personality traits, and current and past participation positively and significantly influences participation in a conservation program. Additionally, having crop insurance and farm successor has a negative and significant impact on the probability of participation in CRP with no impact on CSP and EQIP participation likelihood.
Advisor: Simanti Banerjee