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Our Work

At CBEAR, the questions we ask, aims to help conservation practitioners, scientists and producers.  We identify the best ways to ensure program adoption and, importantly, to better understand what leads to persistent conservation practices. Our mission is to expand climate-smart solutions in agriculture through quality research, engagement, and training, which we achieve through our diverse breadth of work.


"Government programs related to agriculture and the environment need to be based on strong science and economics. Evidence-based policy, insights from the behavioral sciences, and randomized controlled trials are the norm in medicine, education, and other policy fields. CBEAR brings this approach to U.S. agri-environmental policy."


S. Hallock du Pont Professor of Applied Economics, University of Delaware
Co-Director, CBEAR


How We Drive Progress


Building the evidence for financial and

technical assistance

Many agri-environmental programs provide both financial assistance, like cost-share payments, and technical assistance, such as conservation planning. However, the impacts of these two types of assistance have not been well quantified. To generate credible evidence about the impacts of these programs, CBEAR is conducting randomized controlled trials to determine which approaches encourage landowners to participate in agri-environmental programs most cost-effectively. These studies test the cost-effectiveness of different levels of financial assistance as well as different approaches to planning and outreach. We also test to determine whether simpler application processes can deliver higher levels of program participation and landowners satisfaction. The results of these studies help federal and state stakeholders design their programs for the greatest possible levels of success. They can also help demonstrate to policy-makers and external funding sources the rigor by which public monies are being spent and how these approaches are part of a continual process designed for program improvement.


Building the evidence base for enhancing the persistence of conservation practices

Agri-environmental programs frequently provide landowners with short-term financial payments and technical support which are believed to induce long-term changes in conservation practices. But to date, little robust evidence exists on whether landowners continue to employ conservation practices after the technical support and financial payments end.

If landowners continue these practices after initial provision of these support ceases, then these supports can be considered dramatically more cost-effective, because the public benefits will have occurred in subsequent years, even after the payments from the public have ended. CBEAR is engaged in research that uses administrative data and data collected remotely, such as from satellites, to better understand the causal factors that lead to the persistence of conservation practices such as cover crops. We are also working with stakeholders to test variations in program design, such as different lengths of support contracts and various payment structures, to identify cost-effective means for achieving greater persistence in the use of conservation practices.


Building the evidence base for environmental and economic benefits of input efficiency

Farming inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides, can cause environmental and health impacts to both those who use them and those who live downstream or downwind of their use. To mitigate these impacts, various academics, companies, and government programs promote the adoption of input-efficient technologies. Frequently, these proponents claim these technologies also help the technology adopters by saving money, enhancing yields, or reducing risks. Nevertheless, in many cases, the limited existing evidence disagrees on whether input-efficient technologies actually deliver their promised environmental and economic benefits. For instance, new input-efficient technologies are often not implemented by the user as the proponents envisioned. Additionally, some technologies fail in field settings when facing a wider array of weather conditions and other challenges than were originally present in the lab setting. Finally, even with the adoption of some input-efficient technologies, their use is simply expanded to new areas and thus, in aggregate, levels of input use are not reduced and could even be increased.

To help build a better evidence base, CBEAR is collaborating with various partners to carefully understand the adoption of input-efficient technologies, tracking how they are used and whether or not they actually lead to overall reductions in input use. We also seek to understand the effect of technology adoption on producer satisfaction and profitability. 

Grants & Projects


The Persistence of Cover Cropping in the U.S.

Year 2021
Funder USDA Economic Research Service

The Cooperative Agreement with the USDA'S Economic Research Services help develop USDA datasets of US Farmers to allow a joint investigation of what leads to the adoption and persistence of the use of cover crops. It also involves assistance with writing a Congressional Report on the use of cover crops as a manner to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Barley Fields

Persistence of Field Scale Sustainable Agricultural

Land Use


Year 2021

Funder National Science Foundation   

This project uses USDA administrative data and data science techniques to examine what leads to the persistence of cover crops.

Plant & Irrigation System

Using Experimental Economics to Inform Incentive Programs to Reduce Irrigation Water Use... 

Year 2021
Funder Albany State University and the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation

This project will use economic experiments to test the effectiveness of various auction mechanisms and selection methods that could improve water buyback programs in Georgia to protect endangered species.

Our Priorities


Farming Leafy Greens

Improving Assistance for Farmers

We use scientific methods that make the case for technical assistance within

conservation programs.

Young Farmer

Accelerating Sustainable Smart Practices

We seek to understand how to best ensure that practices persist after they are adopted.

Lettuce Farm

Building a More Inclusive Economy

We seek to understand if precision agriculture in crop production can lower overall input use.

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