Factors influencing the adoption of soil conservation practices in Virginia's Piedmont Bright Leaf Erosion Control Area

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The conservation behavior of a sample of farmers in the Piedmont Bright Leaf Erosion Control Area of Virginia is examined to determine the factors which influence the farmers' decisions to use soil conservation practices. The relationship between farmers' use of conservation tillage and other conservation practices and a number of farmer, business, farm community, and ecological characteristics is tested. Results of the analysis are considered in terms of their implications for current and potential conservation programs. This study does not attempt to determine the effectiveness of farmers' conservation efforts for reaching erosion control goals, nor does it provide any basis for determining the appropriate level of erosion control.

Using data from personal interviews with a sample of farmers from two counties in Virginia, two models of conservation adoption are estimated. First a Tobit model of expenditures for conservation practices exclusive of conservation tillage is estimated. Second, conservation tillage adoption is considered in a Tobit model of conservation tillage acreage.

Results indicate that several factors significantly influence farmers' conservation decisions. Financial factors, such as income limitations and debt levels, are the most important influences on farmers' use of conservation practices. A number of other factors were found to influence conservation expenditures - education, perception of erosion, farm size, off-farm employment, debt, tenure status, tobacco acreage, and conservation planning. Farm size, income and off-farm employment variables were also important to the adoption of conservation tillage. Factors impacting conservation tillage acreage but not expenditures for other practices include age, kinship expectations, race, and erosion potential.

Limited resource farmers face particular constraints to the adoption of conservation practices because of the importance of financial factors. However, they are not so constrained in their use of conservation tillage. For the study sample, the limited resource farmers were primarily minority farmers. conservation tillage but not practices.

Several of the relationships found to exist have particular implications for current conservation programs and future program changes.