Evaluation of Policy Tools to Establish Forests and Protect Water Quality in Cornbelt Watersheds

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The 1990 Farm Bill provides a number of incentives to farmers and farmland owners to improve water quality by retiring critical croplands through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Agricultural Wetland Reserve Program (AWR), and by controlling chemical use through the Water Quality Incentives Program (WQIP). This study utilizes two contingent valuation methodologies on 770 mail surveys and 157 personal interviews in 10 Cornbelt counties to estimate potential participation in these programs as a function of financial incentives offered. It also identifies possible barriers to increased enrollment and presents farmers7 attitudes toward these programs as well as toward Swampbuster. The results show that potential enrollments in the WQIP are low; only 17.5% of respondents indicated an interest in participating. In contrast, potential enrollments of filter strips, recharge areas, and farmed wetlands in the CRP respond strongly to annual rental rates, particularly in the range $90-1401 acre. Enrollments in 30-year easements are lower, but also respond strongly to increased lump sum payments. In contrast, most respondents are clearly resentful of Swampbuster restrictions on wetland drainage.

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