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Factors affecting the use of soil conservation practices: an analysis of farmers in Monroe County, Missouri Public Deposited

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  • Literature exploring the use of soil conservation practices has generaly lacked a theoretical framework. This study proposes a decision-making model comprised of physical, personal, economic, and institutional factors. Data from Monroe County, Missouri, are used to test the hypothesized relationships of explanatory variables to variations in nurnber of practices used and average farm erosion rates. Multiple regression model results indicate that personal factors, such as perceived profitability of conservation practices and degree of financial risk aversion, are most important in explaining practice numbers. However, variations in soil erosion rates are significantly related to a combination of physical, personal, and economic variables. Study results also indicate that existing governmental technical assistance programs have no significant effect on conservation efforts. Effectiveness may be enhanced by actively targeting different assistance programs to different farmer groups depending on the relevant obstacles they face. Although the federal government has invested over $20 billion in soil conservation assistance programs since 1935, agricultural soil erosion remains one of the nation's most critical environmental problems. The problem is manifested in decreased soil fertility, increased reliance on energy-intensive practices such as fertilizers and pesticides, pollution of water by sediment and associated chemicals, andeventual loss of productive agricultural land. Yet relatively little research has definitively identified what factors may influence a farmer's decision to adopt or reject soil conservation practices. A recent survey of farmers in Monroe County, Missouri, provides an opportunity to determine the influence of selected physical, social, economic, and institutional factors upon variations in soil conservation efforts. Specific objectives of this study are to: (1) develop a theoretical framework for explaining soil conservation behavior, and (2) statistically test the influence of hypothesized theoretical factors on alternative measures of soil erosion control. Results provide a case study for comparative analyses of regional variations in erosion control efforts, and may be useful in improving the effectiveness of government assistance programs.
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