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Title:Agriculture and conservation in Illinois: landscape values and geographical influences on beliefs and behaviors
Author(s):Schweizer, Laura Ann
Advisor(s):Miller, Craig A.
Department / Program:Natural Res & Env Sci
Discipline:Natural Res & Env Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:Excess nutrients and sedimentation, reduced water quality, and erosion have become pressing issues in the Midwest due to the high levels of corn and soybean production. This study examined relationships between farmers' land value orientations, conservation land ethics, and perceived responsibility to understand the psychological incentives behind conservation behaviors. A mail survey was administered to 3,000 randomly sampled agriculture producers in Illinois during 2015 (32% response rate). The questionnaire measured management practices, farm information, conservation program enrollment, river and stream water quality, and landscape values. The two main objectives of the study were (a) examine relationships between farmers' lands value orientations, conservation ethics, and perceived responsibilities and (b) investigate and link demographic, farming, and biophysical factors to land value orientations, farming and water quality beliefs, and behaviors. Land value orientations were measured using mutualism and domination as the two sets of basic beliefs. A partial mediation Structural Equation Model (SEM) indicated that mutualism value orientations positively influenced both conservation ethics and perceived responsibility (β= 0.75 and β= 0.47, respectively). Domination value orientations negatively influenced conservation ethics (β= -0.08) and had no significant effect on perceived responsibility. Value orientations explained 54% of the variance of conservation ethics. Values and ethics together explain 43% of the variance in perceived responsibility. Indicators used to analyze this model suggest that the data fit the model (GFI=.93, CFI=.91, RMSEA=.07, χ2/df = 5.07). These social factors, along with demographic, farming, and biophysical variables were then included in a logistic regression model to predict a specific conservation behavior: stream buffer implementation. Four partial logistic regression models were created, and significant factors from each partial model were included in a full logistic model. This included variables from the farming, biophysical, and social models: enrollment in CRP, total crop acres owned and leased, whether or not the property contains or borders water, nitrate loading in the watershed, and social norms. These findings supported the hypotheses that land value orientations influence conservation ethics and conservation ethics positively influence perceived conservation responsibility. By understanding farmers' perceptions of their responsibilities, we will then be able to see how these responsibilities translate into physical behaviors. Spatial factors, such as presence of water on the property, as a predictor of conservation behavior, was also supported. Innate land values and conservation ethics may take priority over monetary incentives when it comes to the practices farmers perform on their fields. Not only are social values important, but beliefs that conservation practices would make them a better farmer and improve the farming community and biophysical variables, such as nitrate loading in the watershed in which they farm, can also help predict behaviors. Implications of this research include the ability to understand farmers based on their value orientations, beliefs, and behaviors. These cognitive hierarchy concepts can help government agencies and land managers effectively communicate and utilize strategic methods to increase conservation based on the type of farmer they are interacting with. Looking at conservation on a larger spatial scale can introduce other factors, aside from psychological factors, that influence farming decisions. This research can ultimately improve the environmental performance of agriculture.
Issue Date:2016-07-13
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Laura Schweizer
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-11-10
Date Deposited:2016-08

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