An economic evaluation of on-farm strategies for reduction of nitrate groundwater pollution : the case of irrigated production in the Columbia basin Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/1544br26r

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  • Technological advances in agricultural production over the past 40 years have contributed to the high standard of living enjoyed by many in the United States. Extensive use of chemicals to enhance yield and improve crop quality has played a major role in creating this highly productive U.S. agricultural system. Increased chemical use has imposed some significant environmental costs. One environmental concern receiving increased attention is pollution of groundwater by nitrates. The objective of this dissertation is to examine the economic effects on an irrigated Columbia Basin farm of adopting alternative strategies that reduce agricultural-related groundwater pollution from nitrates. The research involved the development and implementation of a multi-method approach which linked a farm-level linear programming crop mix model, field-level dynamic optimization models, crop simulators, and a geohydrology model of ground water nitrate movement. The analysis focused on optimal irrigation and nitrogen fertilizer scheduling for winter wheat, field corn, and potatoes, the principal crops in the study area, given the presence of various groundwater regulatory options. These options included input taxes, restriction on nitrogen applications, restrictions on nitrate leachate, and Pigovian taxes. The analysis also examined the relationships between the physical environment and the economic factors affecting nitrate pollution. The results of the dynamic optimization and linear programming models provide some important insights into the problem of nitrate pollution. First, careful management of soil moisture is critical to the reduction of pollution rates. Second, some nitrate leachate is unavoidable in the production of irrigated crops within the study area. Third, weather events play a significant role in explaining the existence of nitrate leachate under optimal irrigation and fertilization practices. Fourth, input taxes and restrictions on nitrogen application rate may not always reduce pollution rates. Fifth, Pigovian taxes appear to be the most efficient means of reducing nitrate levels, although they would be difficult to impose. Finally, federal government farm program provisions relating to price supports increase pollution rates and idlement requirements reduce pollution rates.
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