Conservation programs from the farmer's perspective : where is the greener grass? Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/79408081v

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  • On the national level, landowners demand for conservation programs like EQIP and WRP has far outstripped federal funding in 2001. Yet within Oregon's Willamette Valley, both EQIP and CREP have had a rough time gaining momentum. Much of the past research on rural landowners' conservation participation has relied on surveys collecting quantitative data on economic incentives, socio-demographic and farm structure characteristics and the traditional adoption-diffusion model. These past research factors provide a limited understanding of landowners' decision processes. Through the use of participant observation, in-depth interviews, a focus group and cognitive techniques, this study complements past research by 1) exploring southern Willamette Valley landowners' perceptions of conservation programs and 2) better understanding lesser known and obvious influences on landowners' decisions whether to participate in such conservation programs. Half of the landowners in the study sample represent grass seed growers, another quarter represent other farmers and ranchers and the last quarter represent non-farming rural residential. Grass seed farmers were of particular interest because they manage half of the 900,000 acres in production in the Willamette Valley and thus have significant impact on the regional landscape. Landowners approach conservation programs with a world view based on a utilitarian conservationist perspective of natural resources and a strong belief in private property rights. Local conservation agency representatives have an understanding of local landowners' world view, but lack the time to develop the personal rapport and technical skills needed to increase their effectiveness and help rural landowners negotiate the socially complex process of securing permits and financial support. In sum, structural problems are having a significant effect on participation in the southern Willamette Valley. Opportunities also exist for increased education on differing world views between urban and rural peoples. Due to misunderstandings between the two groups, rural landowners feel they are unfairly held accountable for environmental degradation and at the mercy of an unknowledgeable voting majority and therefore often do not even try to participate in public supported conservation programs.
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