Luther, Z. 2020. Farmer willingness to plant prairie strips into crop fields: Evidence from the Eastern Corn Belt. M.S. Plan B Research Paper, Michigan State University, East Lansing MI.
Prairie strips planted into crop fields can provide ecosystem services to society by promoting habitat for beneficial species and by decreasing nutrient runoff and soil erosion. However, prairie strips also introduce private costs to the farmer who plants them. While much is known about prairie strips’ costs and benefits, less is known about how willing farmers are to plant prairie strips into their fields. I help fill this gap in the literature 1) by measuring farmer willingness to supply land for prairie strips in response to payments, 2) by estimating how farmer perceptions and farm traits impact farmers’ willingness to adopt prairie strips, and 3) by generalizing farmer willingness to adopt to calculate the land area that farmers would offer for prairie strips under several payment scenarios. This analysis uses a survey of U.S. corn and soybean farmers in the four Eastern Corn Belt states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. The survey asked respondents if they would enroll in a contract to plant prairie strips on 5% of the respondent’s largest field. In exchange, the farmer would receive a payment ranging from 50% to 300% of the state mean Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payment rate. Using data from 487 responses, I find that farmer willingness to enroll in this hypothetical program increases with the payment offer. Further, willingness to enroll increases with farmer perceptions that prairie strips will increase soil retention and that prairie strips will increase crop yields. Using my results, I am able to construct projected supply curves across these four states detailing the corn and soybean acreage that farmers would enroll in a prairie strip program if incentive payments were offered. I find that nearly 308,000 acres of corn and soybean across these four states could be allocated toward prairie strips under payments equivalent to 100% of CRP in-state rental payment averages, for a total annual program cost of $41.2 million.
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