Govt Spends $500,000 To Study Why Farmers Don’t Take Federal Money


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Thomas Phippen Associate Editor
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The Department of Agriculture is spending $500,000 for research into why farmers don’t apply for grants that pay farmers to adopt conservation practices.

The USDA awarded two grants that will “help pinpoint motivators that drive farmers to adopt conservation practices and identify the roadblocks that may get in the way,” according to a Monday press release.

Among the numerous conservation grants the USDA offers each year are programs to pay farmers to preserve certain areas of their farm for wetlands or grasslands, either for soil health or to protect habitat for animals. In Texas alone, the USDA spent $115,642,785 during 2016 on “rental payments” to farmers who converted certain erodible lands into “long-term vegetative cover.”

USDA would like to understand why farmers don’t sign up for these incentive programs.

“USDA provides incentives for farmers to adopt conservation practices, yet many farmers do not participate,” Sonny Ramaswamy, director of National Institute of Food and Agriculture, said in a statement.

“Projects funded by these grants will give us greater insight on why farmers adopt conservation practices and help us more effectively target limited resources for these conservation incentives,” Ramaswamy continued.

One grant of $250,000 will “investigate how risk and time preferences may inform how producers view the benefits and costs” of agriculture conservation programs. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University will develop a theory for what sort of risks farmers are willing to take to “preserve the environment,” through incentive grants that encourage things like ” adopting new technologies and practices or taking lands out of production.”

Washington State University received a $250,000 to “identify ways to increase the number of Hispanic producer applications to USDA conservation programs.” Hispanic and “socially disadvantaged” farmers “may operate on more environmentally sensitive land,” the project summary states.

To encourage applications from Hispanic farmers, the researchers will “will investigate how providing information with direct mailings” will affect the number of applications, and other ways to structure the language, framing and pricing information to encourage farmers to apply for conservation grants.

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