Understanding why farmers protect soil and water resources
Agricultural producers are charged with being stewards of land and water resources while providing food for a growing population under changing weather patterns and market conditions. A key challenge is to develop outreach programs and other tools that support conservation practices for these producers. Multiple agricultural conservation practices are related to forests and forestry (e.g., forested riparian buffers), and agricultural producers often own forested land as part of or in addition to the land they actively manage for production purposes. A Forest Service team has now synthesized 40 years of research on agricultural conservation strategies and presented their findings at the 2017 Soil and Water Conservation Society Annual Meeting. Researchers shared key findings including what factors are more often positively related to behaviors that support agricultural conservation. Among them are positive attitudes about conservation practices, availability of cost-share, and actively seeking information about conservation (such as attending field days). Environmental factors such as having vulnerable soils or experiencing extreme weather are also positively related to conservation behaviors, while economic factors such as the cost of production inputs are usually negatively related. These findings will be prepared for a peer-reviewed publication. In the meantime, the general findings are helpful for practitioners interested in working with farmers on conservation.