Building an Inclusive Economy
We seek to understand if precision agriculture in crop production can lower overall
ECONOMICS OF PRECISION AG
Does Precision Agriculture Harness Economic and Smart-Climate Change?
Precision Agriculture is equipping farmers with the tools that work. Farmers face mounting regulatory and market pressure to make their operations more sustainable, and technology is creating new economic and environmental opportunities for agriculture.
EDF research has shown that precision nutrient management — paired with cover crops, natural buffers and wetlands — is key to reducing the environmental impact of fertilizer. A new wave of data analytic tools and internet-of-things devices makes it easier to achieve that precision.
As the market for nutrient management tools grows, established startups are making bold claims about their offerings. But without scientifically backed, independent data, changing nitrogen use is a risky decision for farmers who rely on it to grow their crops. What farmers and their advisers really need to know is which tools will work for them.
THE AG VALUES PROJECT
Agricultural Values, Innovation & Stewardship Enhancement Project
CBEAR created the Ag Values Project project as a testbed for behavioral insights in the agricultural context. By creating a “name-your-own cost-share” auction, we have been able to improve environmental outcomes, like water quality and invasive species control. Ag Values Project has demonstrated that behavioral nudges can be effective ways to encourage cost-effective conservation actions by landowners, while preserving farmers’ autonomy and control over their decision-making. Simple changes to the program environment, such as changing the default starting points for programs, can result in large efficiency gains for government programs. These improvements can help use taxpayer money more efficiently to achieve additional environmental benefits, without changing any laws or program rules.
Example 1: Discounting
Because both farming and conservation are fundamentally about spending money and time now to obtain returns in the future, farm programs need to understand how farmers tradeoff benefits now for benefits later. Yet direct measurement of how U.S. farmers discount future benefits is rare.
Example 2: Risk Attitudes
Farmers’ attitudes towards uncertainty determine their input investments, their insurance choices, and their contract choices. Behavioral science has illustrated that these attitudes can be malleable and context-dependent, yet direct measurement of these attitudes among U.S. farmers is rare.
Decision-making among Farmers
The field of behavioral economics has documented that consumers are not always rational, have limits to their self-control, and are influenced by their psychological biases. Less well understood is the degree to which those same psychological factors influence farmer decisions and what those factors imply for the design of agricultural policies and programs. Using methodologies from behavioral and experimental economics, CBEAR seeks to clarify the psychological factors of decision-making that are relevant to the design and implementation of agri-environmental programs.