Academic journal article Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics

Best Management Practices to Enhance Water Quality: Who Is Adopting Them?

Academic journal article Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics

Best Management Practices to Enhance Water Quality: Who Is Adopting Them?

Article excerpt

This study investigates the determinants affecting producers' adoption of some Best Management Practices (BMPs). Priors about the signs of certain variables are explicitly accounted for by testing for inequality restrictions through importance sampling. Education, gender, age, and on-farm residence are found to have significant effects on the adoption of some BMPs. Farms with larger animal production are more apt to implement manure management practices, crop rotation, and riparian buffer strips. Also, farms with larger cultivated acres are more inclined to implement herbicide control practices, crop rotation, and riparian buffer strips. Belonging to an agro-environment club has a positive impact for most BMPs.

Key Words: adoption, Bayesian analysis, best management practices, priors, runoff, water quality

JEL Classifications: Q12, Q25, C11

For a long time in the province of Quebec (Canada), water quality issues have been neglected and as a result severe environmental problems arose (e.g., well contamination). A moratorium on the development of new hog production facilities and expansion of capacity was imposed between 2002 and 2005. The moratorium slowed down expansion of agricultural activities in problem and nonproblem areas, but it failed to address the water quality issues in areas with acute problems. The lesson from this episode is that the problems tend to be local (watershed specific) and that policies ought to be applied at that level. Subsequent to the moratorium, new regulations were imposed and it has become a public policy priority to find ways to mitigate negative environmental externalities arising from agricultural activities. This is especially true in regions like the Chaudière region where there is a high concentration of hog, beef, and dairy production facilities. In this context, it seems most pertinent to analyze factors conditioning the adoption of Best Management Practices (BMPs) at the watershed level and to use this information to design programs to achieve a target adoption level set in relation to the severity of the water quality problems in the watershed.

The objective of this study is to ascertain the impact of socio-economic factors, farm characteristics, and operational factors on the probability of BMP adoption in the greater Chaudière region in Quebec. Water quality degradation brought about by agricultural production is of great concern in this region. This is why significant efforts are made to encourage the adoption and implementation of BMPs, such as crop rotation, surface runoff control, reduced herbicide use, and solid and liquid manure management. It is believed that BMPs are likely to improve water quality by limiting leaching and runoff of chemicals and sediments.

The recommended practice of gradually introducing perennial crops, such as alfalfa, into crop rotations is meant to protect surface soils and enhance nutrient uptake while improving soil structure, thereby improving water quality. For example, harvested alfalfa can export twice the volume of nitrates as corn for the same amount of dry matter removed. Also, the use of annual crops in rotation with cereals should help break the pest cycle, while providing both positive environmental and economic benefits. Surface runoff control is needed because sediment and contaminant transport from agricultural soils to ditches and streams is exacerbated locally by steep stream bank and ditch side slopes, continuous annual row cropping, and a general lack of erosion control methods. This problem is tackled through the establishment of riparian buffer strips, the reduction of the side slope of stream and ditch banks and planting of shrubs and trees along them, and the establishment of grassed waterways. The reduction of herbicide use is coordinated through a weed control program which features a decision support system developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.1 Manure management entails applying solid and liquid manure using a low-ramp spreader equipped with trail hoses. …

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