Schewe, R. L. and D. Stuart. 2017. Why don't they just change? Contract farming, informational influence, and barriers to agricultural climate change mitigation. Rural Sociology 82:226-262.
Using a mixed-methods study of contract seed-corn farmers in southwest Michigan, we examine the effect of interlocking macro and micro social forces on climate change behavior and apply the theoretical frames of treadmills of production and informational influence. We find that competitive agricultural contracts in the seed-corn industry impose significant structural barriers to adopting climate change mitigation behaviors. Seed-corn contracts constrain adoption of those behaviors through competitive rankings based solely on net commodity production and by limiting farmers’ access to information to make judicious management decisions. At the micro level, our findings suggest that informational influence—that is, where farmers turn for trusted information—also affects climate change mitigation behaviors, and that these informational networks are embedded within structural constraints. Our findings suggest that agricultural contracts serve as a significant structural constraint on the adoption of mitigation practices and that climate scholarship and policy must address both macro and micro dimensions simultaneously to encourage adoption of climate change mitigation.
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