Palm-Forster, L. H., S. M. Swinton, and R. S. Shupp. 2017. Farmer preferences for conservation incentives that promote voluntary phosphorus abatement in agricultural watersheds. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 72:493-505.
Financial incentives are commonly used to promote voluntary adoption of agricultural best management practices (BMPs), but little is known about farmer preferences among alternative incentives. Using experimental procurement auctions, we evaluate how different conservation incentives affect farmer willingness to adopt BMPs that reduce phosphorus (P) runoff, a major driver of harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. We rank incentives (e.g., payment, BMP insurance, tax credit, and certification price premium) by the cost per pound of P runoff reduction. Payments and tax credits that target high impact areas of the watershed are more cost-effective than untargeted price premiums for product certification. Farmers demand higher payments for contracts offering BMP insurance (i.e., protection against yield loss from BMP use) due to uncertainty about how the program will be implemented and the reliability of indemnities, as well as anticipated transaction costs associated with the program. Understanding farmer preferences for different types of conservation incentives is critical to design agri-environmental programs that engage more farmers and cost-effectively enhance ecosystem services.
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