Plant to Table: J. Arbuckle
"The Sociology of Soil and Water Conservation in Agriculture: What have we learned, and where are we headed?"
Arbuckle will trace the history of social science research on farmer adoption of new agricultural technologies and practices from the 1940s to the present. In the past 80 years, agriculture has rapidly transformed from diverse production systems to highly specialized monocultures. In the 1980s, social scientists began to look at the adoption of soil and water conservation practices in response to major environmental impacts associated with specialized commodity production. Arbuckle identifies the facilitators of and barriers to farmer adoption of soil and water conservation practices and agroecological approaches to farming. He will discuss research gaps and future research directions to inform transformations that work better for people and planet. Arbuckle is professor and extension rural sociologist at Iowa State University focused on improving the environmental and social performance of agricultural systems. His primary areas of interest are drivers of farmer and agricultural stakeholder soil and water conservation behaviors, especially related to climate change adaptation and mitigation. He is director of the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, an annual survey of Iowa farmers.
Part of the 2023 Great Plains conference.
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[00:00:00.090]Extension Rural Sociologist at Iowa State University
[00:00:04.350]who's focused on improving the environmental
[00:00:06.660]and social performance of agricultural systems.
[00:00:10.170]His primary areas of interest are drivers of farmer
[00:00:14.010]and agricultural stakeholders,
[00:00:15.720]soil and water conservation behaviors,
[00:00:18.150]especially related to climate change,
[00:00:20.010]adaptation and mitigation.
[00:00:22.350]And he's Director of the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll,
[00:00:25.590]an annual survey of Iowa farmers.
[00:00:31.320]Thank you so much for having me.
[00:00:33.000]Can everybody hear me okay?
[00:00:34.740]Yep, okay, great.
[00:00:35.880]Well, I kind of wish I had been the first keynote
[00:00:38.970]because I could have set a low bar
[00:00:40.320]for the other keynotes, and as the last keynote,
[00:00:42.960]and the bar is incredibly high, but I'm not competitive.
[00:00:45.570]I'm just gonna do the best I can.
[00:00:48.955]And my apologies to folks on this side of the room.
[00:00:51.220]My slides are a little bit text heavy,
[00:00:53.310]but I'm gonna read a lot of quotes and so hopefully
[00:00:55.912]you'll get the gist of it.
[00:00:56.745]I did spend some time last evening moving
[00:00:59.370]some text over to that side (mumbling).
[00:01:02.937]So anyway, I'm Professor of Rural Sociology
[00:01:05.460]and also an Extension Sociologist at Iowa State University.
[00:01:09.660]And I'm here to talk to you about
[00:01:10.980]the "Sociology of Soil and Water Conservation
[00:01:12.967]"in Agriculture, What Have We Learned and Where We Headed?"
[00:01:15.332]And I just wanna say before I get started,
[00:01:17.490]kind of a basic fundamental premise of this talk,
[00:01:20.340]or where I'm departing from, is that
[00:01:23.880]the health of the land is critically important
[00:01:27.180]to our capacity to produce food.
[00:01:29.640]Our capacity to produce to food,
[00:01:31.537]and distribute food is really fundamental
[00:01:35.010]for societal stability.
[00:01:38.220]When people are hungry, they get angry.
[00:01:39.750]And so I'm kind of taking a long view here in terms
[00:01:42.090]of sustainability of agriculture and food systems.
[00:01:44.301]If we don't take care of our soils,
[00:01:46.153]we're gonna be in big trouble down the road.
[00:01:49.200]So that's kind of the starting point here.
[00:01:52.920]But my goals for today's presentation,
[00:01:54.870]so I'm gonna give you kind of a brief history of adoption
[00:01:57.480]research and agriculture from hybrid corn
[00:01:59.850]to soil and water conservation.
[00:02:01.350]I know there's a lot of historians in the room.
[00:02:03.240]I've already given my excuses to some of 'em,
[00:02:05.760]and just say, you know, I'm a sociologist.
[00:02:07.500]I do the best I can with history.
[00:02:08.670]It's really important sociology to learn from history.
[00:02:11.460]So I'm trying to do that here.
[00:02:13.457]So I'm gonna also summarize findings from some recent
[00:02:16.950]reviews in the social science research
[00:02:19.674]on soil and water conservation adoption and non-adoption.
[00:02:22.620]And I'm gonna look at ways that conservation professionals
[00:02:25.770]and agricultural stakeholders can help to facilitate more
[00:02:29.190]widespread adoption soil health practices.
[00:02:31.530]And then I'm gonna hopefully highlight some major gaps.
[00:02:34.050]I will highlight some major gaps in the ways that we,
[00:02:36.900]both as social scientists,
[00:02:37.920]but also in kind of the wider kind of food
[00:02:41.040]and natural resources systems,
[00:02:42.300]how we strive for better soil and wider outcomes
[00:02:44.490]and aggregate ecological transformations.
[00:02:48.270]Okay, so the starting point for my talk is
[00:02:51.361]the theory called diffusion of innovations.
[00:02:54.990]I'm sure a number of you are familiar with this theory.
[00:02:57.900]It was popularized and synthesized by Everett Rogers,
[00:03:00.780]who's an Iowa State University graduate.
[00:03:03.150]The diffusion of innovations is a theoretical model
[00:03:05.430]to help explain the adoption
[00:03:08.100]and eventual diffusion of new innovations through society.
[00:03:13.050]Basically was started at Iowa State University.
[00:03:15.990]And so this synthesis published by Rogers has,
[00:03:19.830]it's in its fifth edition.
[00:03:21.930]Dr. Rogers unfortunately passed away,
[00:03:23.370]I think mid two thousands.
[00:03:25.050]But this book now has 149,000 citations.
[00:03:28.350]And so for the academics in the room,
[00:03:30.300]we can only imagine getting there, but it's pretty much,
[00:03:34.590]so it's been a really impactful book in the diffusion
[00:03:37.350]of the innovations theory is really important.
[00:03:40.740]Just real quick, I'm gonna give you
[00:03:42.330]a very basic tremor on the diffusion of innovations behavior
[00:03:47.700]model as it's generally operationalized.
[00:03:49.697]It's a pretty linear model,
[00:03:51.360]but there are some feedback loops.
[00:03:53.040]I mean, it starts with the potential adopter of a practice
[00:03:56.430]or an innovation, becoming aware of it.
[00:03:58.740]And so then there's different kinds of channels
[00:04:01.650]through which they can become aware of it.
[00:04:03.120]And once they become aware of it and knowledgeable,
[00:04:05.220]then they potentially need to be persuaded by change agents
[00:04:08.280]to help them kind of get over the, any sort of kind of lack
[00:04:13.860]of understanding and risk perceptions.
[00:04:17.010]Then there's the decision.
[00:04:18.360]And once they make the decision to either adopt
[00:04:20.340]or not adopt, then you know, if they adopt,
[00:04:22.800]and they go into implement implementation
[00:04:24.450]and eventually confirmation.
[00:04:25.620]They decide that they're gonna keep doing the practices.
[00:04:27.990]So that's just the really basic part of it.
[00:04:30.250]There's also some kind of social systems approaches,
[00:04:34.410]and I'll say some more about this later on,
[00:04:37.830]but the social systems part of diffusion of innovations has
[00:04:40.590]not received as much focus as kind of the,
[00:04:43.290]this kind of linear process of decision making.
[00:04:46.560]So the diffusion of innovations approach
[00:04:49.140]to understanding adoption really came about
[00:04:52.640]in the first major study of this kind of diffusion process
[00:04:57.180]was done in 1943 in Iowa and it was studied the diffusion
[00:05:01.320]of hybrid corn, you know.
[00:05:02.250]So hybrid corn had been,
[00:05:04.110]I think first marketed in kind
[00:05:06.180]of the late twenties, early thirties.
[00:05:08.790]And it was initially very slow to take off.
[00:05:11.880]And so the social scientists were like,
[00:05:13.680]why is it taking so long?
[00:05:15.341]There's obvious, that obviously it's a superior yields,
[00:05:18.510]right, superior product, why aren't farmers adopting it?
[00:05:22.650]And so that's kind of study looked at that
[00:05:24.502]and kind of traced the diffusion of hybrid corn,
[00:05:28.620]which actually was very quickly within like 15 years,
[00:05:31.680]something like 85 or 90% of Iowa farmers
[00:05:34.410]were using hybrid corn
[00:05:36.090]'cause it did have much higher yields.
[00:05:39.150]But anyway, so that was the first,
[00:05:40.410]and then I just want to give you a little bit
[00:05:42.554]of a background on the components
[00:05:43.740]of the diffusion of innovation model.
[00:05:45.990]So it starts with the innovation.
[00:05:48.300]And so the innovation, it's,
[00:05:50.130]and its perceived characteristics,
[00:05:51.540]it's communicated through media, extension, marketing, peers
[00:05:56.250]through a social system that has community norms,
[00:05:58.950]opinion leaders and change agents that
[00:06:01.290]then influence diffusion as individual adopters
[00:06:03.930]try it over time and it spreads or it doesn't.
[00:06:06.360]And so I hope you can see most of these panels.
[00:06:10.260]So over here is awareness that there's a farmer there
[00:06:13.140]reading his newspaper and, you know,
[00:06:14.730]learning about this new, this new innovation.
[00:06:18.360]And then the next step is interest.
[00:06:20.160]You can see here this is a farmer reading little pamphlet
[00:06:23.100]about the, you know, learning more about it.
[00:06:25.830]And then there's the evaluation stage.
[00:06:28.110]He's talking to his neighbor, and then we find out
[00:06:31.410]this is actually a shell chemical advertisement
[00:06:34.530]for learning about insecticides.
[00:06:36.924]And so then the next is the trial phase.
[00:06:39.510]You can see that the farmer is like doing
[00:06:41.053]a little spray on the, on his wife's whatever,
[00:06:44.250]pansies that are there to check it.
[00:06:46.650]That's his trialing of the innovation.
[00:06:48.690]And then it goes the adoption phase.
[00:06:50.280]And you can see this is a very happy farmer and his brand
[00:06:52.650]new tractor spraying chemicals all over his field.
[00:06:55.686]And so that's the process.
[00:06:57.150]And so they have happily ever after, right?
[00:06:58.950]He's adopted the practice,
[00:07:00.570]so it's gonna be, but this is just something,
[00:07:03.600]this is how it has was marketed and thought about.
[00:07:07.080]And so that's the model.
[00:07:09.600]And then the model became really important to the land grant
[00:07:13.590]universities and what a lot of people call
[00:07:15.330]the land grant industrial complex.
[00:07:17.880]You know, from the thirties onward,
[00:07:19.530]there's been this really major promotion of high input
[00:07:23.220]models of agriculture, you know,
[00:07:25.470]models of agriculture that are dependent
[00:07:26.910]on fossil fuels, petrochemicals,
[00:07:29.820]externally produced inputs that have
[00:07:31.680]been purchased and used on the farm.
[00:07:34.664]And these are two snippets.
[00:07:35.497]You can't see these from there, but these are two snippets
[00:07:38.670]of journal articles that came out in the fifties.
[00:07:41.062]The one on down here is just the first sentence
[00:07:44.520]is "The practice under consideration,
[00:07:46.027]"the use of 2,4-D spray for field weed control
[00:07:49.417]"involves a change in existing farm perceptions.
[00:07:52.117]"For most farmers and involved a new practice
[00:07:54.487]"in terms of," blah, blah, blah.
[00:07:57.085]And then the other one is "Commercial fertilizer is playing
[00:07:58.207]"an increasingly important role in American agriculture.
[00:08:00.817]"Despite the increase in use
[00:08:02.197]"of commercial fertilizer by farmers,
[00:08:04.147]"there is still much evidence that it's not being used
[00:08:06.667]"to its greatest potential."
[00:08:08.100]And so, you know, all of these, and there's a lot
[00:08:10.200]of you know, examples of these where, you know,
[00:08:12.960]these externally produced inputs that are being hocked
[00:08:16.530]as part of the, you know, the seed, you know,
[00:08:19.200]these new hybrid seeds that are really dependent on these
[00:08:22.387]externally produced inputs to create
[00:08:25.200]the yields are being sold.
[00:08:27.000]And it's a problem when farmers aren't adopting them.
[00:08:30.330]And so, you know, the, the adopters,
[00:08:33.120]which you can see up here,
[00:08:34.050]they're the happy farmers that have done it
[00:08:35.490]and chugging through their fields on their tractor.
[00:08:38.040]But then the non-adopters down there
[00:08:42.270]are generally characterized in the model as laggards.
[00:08:45.180]They're lazy, they're stupid, they're not educated,
[00:08:48.626]they're too old to understand.
[00:08:50.047]So there's a really kind of normative, you know,
[00:08:51.750]component to this like that if they're not willing
[00:08:54.540]to join the modernization of agriculture,
[00:08:57.720]there's probably something wrong with it, right?
[00:08:59.447]So that's, that has been a really big part
[00:09:02.010]of the big part of the model.
[00:09:05.040]We've been trying to get rid of the use of the some laggards
[00:09:08.518]because of this very charged.
[00:09:10.279]But anyway, the approach was really, it was agronomists,
[00:09:15.360]it was agricultural economists,
[00:09:17.438]it was rural sociologists really working in lockstep working
[00:09:20.250]together to modernize agriculture,
[00:09:22.710]make it better in you know,
[00:09:24.930]in terms of these high output models.
[00:09:26.910]So, and it was highly successful and as we all know,
[00:09:29.820]so it resulted in really massively rapid shifts
[00:09:33.030]to specialized production of a few commodity crops.
[00:09:36.120]We were used to have really diverse systems
[00:09:38.100]shifted to a few commodity crops.
[00:09:40.560]The role of purchased inputs increased dramatically.
[00:09:42.930]You can see this here, the purple line on the top
[00:09:46.830]that's purchased inputs, the capital including land
[00:09:49.620]kind of stays the same and then labor goes down.
[00:09:52.080]But purchase inputs as a component of agriculture,
[00:09:55.760]huge increase there.
[00:09:57.270]Oh, and I would say, I mean the, and the system shift,
[00:10:00.671]the really, I think the important part
[00:10:01.650]that I want make a point on is that
[00:10:03.510]the systems shift from a system or agricultural systems
[00:10:07.830]that were really dependent on on-farm,
[00:10:09.510]like you know, management of on-farm agroecological
[00:10:13.440]processes to reproduce the agricultural systems
[00:10:17.160]from year to year to almost complete dependence
[00:10:20.040]on off-farm inputs in a very short period of time.
[00:10:25.817]And so that's kind of your crash course
[00:10:27.660]in the diffusion of innovations.
[00:10:28.860]And so then kind of along in the sixties
[00:10:31.680]and seventies and into the eighties,
[00:10:33.780]we really started to understand that there were
[00:10:38.040]consequences, but along the way, like the folks that
[00:10:40.650]were involved in promoting these models,
[00:10:42.540]including rural sociologists, where it began to fall
[00:10:45.960]under critiques that we weren't paying enough attention
[00:10:48.720]to the actual consequences of these shifts.
[00:10:52.440]And so one thing I, has anybody here ever heard
[00:10:56.070]of the agricultural treadmill as a concept.
[00:10:59.010]Okay, so a few but not many.
[00:11:00.690]So that's good.
[00:11:01.523]'Cause I wanted to really kind of go
[00:11:03.331]through this in some details.
[00:11:04.643]It's an incredibly important concept.
[00:11:05.760]It was developed by a agricultural economist
[00:11:08.639]named Willard Cochrane back in the fifties.
[00:11:10.830]Really got you developed more after that.
[00:11:13.110]But it's kind of, it's a treadmill in which
[00:11:16.828]like new innovations like pesticides
[00:11:19.590]and fertilizers like reduced risk and allowed
[00:11:22.890]specialization in a few crops like corn and soybeans.
[00:11:26.820]Back before we had these purchased inputs,
[00:11:29.580]you really couldn't have monocultures year after year
[00:11:32.190]because you had pests that would come,
[00:11:34.740]pests and weeds and other, you had to be able
[00:11:36.840]to use hydro ecological processes to break pest cycles
[00:11:40.410]and so forth and renew the fertility of the land
[00:11:43.680]using legumes and so forth.
[00:11:44.850]So it was really ever ecologically based.
[00:11:48.117]But once we shifted to those
[00:11:50.400]pesticides and fertilizers and so forth, and tractors,
[00:11:53.130]you could specialize in a few fuel crops.
[00:11:54.870]And when that happens, you have this kind
[00:11:56.940]of commodity economics comes in.
[00:11:59.220]You have new technologies that increase yield,
[00:12:01.710]reduce clots per unit.
[00:12:03.510]Early adopters do very well
[00:12:04.920]'cause their yields jump up, right?
[00:12:07.047]And so they get have some profits
[00:12:09.720]and then later adopters adopt the new technology.
[00:12:12.570]The supply rises to the point where it causes that the bust.
[00:12:16.710]So you have kind of booms and busts in agriculture.
[00:12:19.650]The supply of agricultural products get so high that
[00:12:22.050]the bottoms drop out of the market.
[00:12:24.180]The farmers who did not adopt or adopted late, you know,
[00:12:26.917]they're probably, you know, living on the edge, they fail.
[00:12:30.870]And then the larger scale farmers that can absorb
[00:12:32.970]some of the downturn in in agriculture markets end up buying
[00:12:36.780]and renting their land, and that process repeats over time.
[00:12:40.530]And it's like it then causes this treadmill
[00:12:42.330]where you consistently have to adopt the new technology,
[00:12:45.360]keep those yields coming up and you know,
[00:12:47.097]the yields per, you know,
[00:12:48.990]per acre of land, yields per machinery expenditure.
[00:12:52.650]And that process rinses and repeats over time.
[00:12:55.380]And so, you know, very quickly, you know,
[00:12:58.797]once we got into this specialized commodity production,
[00:13:01.590]these boom bust cycles happen a lot.
[00:13:03.450]And it, as we all know, it led to an increased,
[00:13:06.420]like an incredibly rapid loss of farms in consolidation
[00:13:09.870]into larger specialized commodity for using farms
[00:13:12.330]like increased almost, you know,
[00:13:15.548]like whole dependence on purchasing inputs.
[00:13:18.900]Also rented land, that's something
[00:13:21.480]I'll talk about a little bit later on,
[00:13:23.612]but then some of the farmers that were no longer
[00:13:25.530]able to farm decide that they can make more money just
[00:13:27.870]renting it out to other larger scale farmers.
[00:13:31.800]And so what this happens like that increased
[00:13:33.810]dependence on inputs, increased dependence on rented land,
[00:13:37.080]results in the cost price squeeze on profit margins
[00:13:40.470]as profit margins decline really
[00:13:42.630]to zero on average over time.
[00:13:44.730]So, you know, you're gonna always have some farmers
[00:13:47.100]that are making it profit that you're always
[00:13:48.870]gonna have some farmers that are
[00:13:50.272]not making the profit over time, they drop off.
[00:13:51.960]Another really important thing is a rural sociology,
[00:13:54.330]I'd be remiss to say.
[00:13:56.070]The money that's spent on purchase
[00:13:57.900]inputs does not stay in rural communities.
[00:14:01.740]That generally flows out.
[00:14:03.240]If you think about where the headquarters of the companies
[00:14:05.550]that are making the fertilizers, the pesticides,
[00:14:08.700]the machines and so forth,
[00:14:10.530]they're not headquartered in central Nebraska
[00:14:13.410]or (mumbles) County in Iowa.
[00:14:15.687]They're headquarters someplace else.
[00:14:17.070]And so you just have this massive outflow
[00:14:19.680]of money into other areas.
[00:14:22.800]And so this is kind of the kind of the commodity
[00:14:27.330]specialization, agricultural treadmill thing.
[00:14:30.480]So, and so that's kind of a long way of saying or explaining
[00:14:35.850]the process whereby we've lost so many farms
[00:14:38.850]and then, you know, related population decline
[00:14:40.980]because we don't have the same
[00:14:42.300]knowledge turning over in rural communities,
[00:14:44.310]doesn't support many businesses and so forth.
[00:14:45.883]So you can see here, you know,
[00:14:47.700]the number of farms from 1935 to the present dropped
[00:14:51.150]incredibly, and the farm average farm size of course,
[00:14:54.510]which is part of the treadmill increases.
[00:14:59.460]Another important part of this
[00:15:01.200]is like declines in diversity.
[00:15:03.180]And you can really, so this specialization,
[00:15:06.177]so this is taken from the agricultural census
[00:15:09.960]master student of Neil Flora,
[00:15:13.350]who some of you know at Iowa State University.
[00:15:15.810]Michael Carolyn, he's now out in Colorado,
[00:15:18.180]but he did this for his master's thesis.
[00:15:20.130]He basically looked into ag census and tracked diversity
[00:15:23.514]in agriculture over time in Iowa.
[00:15:26.310]And so you have on this side, this is 1920,
[00:15:30.300]you've got 39 different crops that were
[00:15:33.000]produced on at least 1% of Iowa farms.
[00:15:36.046]By 1940 you've got 32.
[00:15:38.874]1950, you've got 28, but you're still
[00:15:40.890]holding pretty good diversity there, right?
[00:15:44.010]But then you dropped to 1978 and that was really
[00:15:46.860]from 1950 to 1978 is when that treadmill really took hold.
[00:15:50.730]And we really had a huge loss in number of farms.
[00:15:53.400]You've got just 10 different different crops,
[00:15:57.477]and but you know, you still had, you know,
[00:15:59.520]60% of farms had cattle, 56 had hay.
[00:16:03.660]You know, 50% have hogs and so they're
[00:16:05.400]fairly diversified operations.
[00:16:09.990]But then you go to the 1992,
[00:16:11.670]there's still 10, and as you trace across,
[00:16:13.770]we've stayed stable at about 10.
[00:16:15.930]But then by the time you get to 2017,
[00:16:17.730]which is the last agricultural census,
[00:16:20.250]you know, had far fewer.
[00:16:21.390]You only have 7% of farms that have hogs,
[00:16:25.830]which, and they're all living inside now
[00:16:28.153]for the most part, very few horses.
[00:16:30.217]So you could see, you know, this massive you know,
[00:16:31.920]shift in the types of agriculture in Iowa over time,
[00:16:36.390]and those declines in diversity are really also reflected
[00:16:39.540]on the land and rural communities.
[00:16:41.370]And so this is a single section of land
[00:16:44.220]in Wright County, Iowa,
[00:16:46.020]which is in what we call the Des Moines Lobe.
[00:16:49.440]It's just kind of a lobe.
[00:16:53.289]It's a place that's one of the most
[00:16:55.170]fertile areas in the world.
[00:16:56.340]It's where we had the prairie potholes and glaciation 10,000
[00:17:00.060]years ago when glaciers were seated
[00:17:01.890]and left really marshy prairie.
[00:17:03.540]It's the most fertile land in the world.
[00:17:04.803]It's really beautiful to farm.
[00:17:07.100]But you can see back in 1930, I counted on here there's
[00:17:11.550]25 home sites about in a hundred plus fields,
[00:17:14.580]because back in 1930 what did you have to do?
[00:17:16.380]You had to rotate crops and you had to grow alfalfa
[00:17:21.120]and hay to feed your animals and so forth.
[00:17:23.070]So you have this incredible diversity both
[00:17:25.470]in terms of like human life and also the crops.
[00:17:29.880]And also there are a lot of fence rows.
[00:17:31.560]One of the things that people don't think about
[00:17:33.240]as much as they should is that fence rows, you know,
[00:17:36.420]in a landscape like this is the only refuge for wildlife
[00:17:40.470]pollinators, you know, songbirds and so forth.
[00:17:43.980]And I know you think about a lot about songbirds here,
[00:17:45.957]but that was like the only refuge.
[00:17:46.980]It also slowed water flow quite a bit,
[00:17:49.320]and I'll say a little bit about that in a little bit.
[00:17:52.200]But look, you know, fast forward to 2016,
[00:17:53.783]this is that same square mile section of land.
[00:17:57.990]You've only got 13 home sites and I've been told that
[00:18:01.380]at least a couple of these are abandoned
[00:18:03.590]and just 20 fields and there are only two crops.
[00:18:06.690]So just a major shift that you can actually see on the land.
[00:18:11.250]Of course, we're also aware of the environmental
[00:18:13.950]consequences of this shift
[00:18:16.050]to specialized commodity production.
[00:18:19.170]You know, this disembedding from the agroecological
[00:18:21.900]foundations of agriculture that we really had
[00:18:23.820]to hew to until the thirties, until we started replacing
[00:18:27.360]agroecological processes with purchased inputs.
[00:18:30.131]You know, that embedding led to the declines of diversity,
[00:18:34.380]increased reliance on external inputs and increases,
[00:18:37.050]ultimately increases in degradation,
[00:18:39.480]both social and environmental.
[00:18:40.800]But I'm talking about environmental here, you know,
[00:18:43.260]soil erosion, which as I said at the beginning,
[00:18:45.210]that's the destruction of the resource base on which we
[00:18:48.420]depend as a society for our long term resilience.
[00:18:51.960]Nutrient loss and water quality,
[00:18:53.220]habitat loss, wildlife loss, et cetera.
[00:18:56.130]So that's, you know, those kinds of things
[00:18:59.190]started to become apparent.
[00:19:00.810]But the critiques to the diffusion of innovation model
[00:19:04.140]where that we weren't paying enough attention to these.
[00:19:07.415]And so just in summary, the critiques of the diffusion
[00:19:11.220]of innovations research.
[00:19:12.150]So, you know, we didn't recognize the problems
[00:19:15.766]with modern ag and diffusion of innovation as a facilitator.
[00:19:21.780]The model really had a very strong
[00:19:23.820]pro-innovation bias, right?
[00:19:25.320]If you were, if you adopted, you were modern.
[00:19:27.450]If you didn't adopt, you were laggard.
[00:19:30.345]A very strong promotional approach
[00:19:32.790]toward the technology themselves,
[00:19:34.230]but not very much attention paid
[00:19:36.090]to the social environmental consequences.
[00:19:38.730]And even economic, you know,
[00:19:39.840]the rural economic consequences.
[00:19:42.060]And a really important part that I've been, you know,
[00:19:45.840]learning about in my work
[00:19:47.340]and I'm as guilty as many others,
[00:19:49.559]like there was a myopic focus on the social psychology
[00:19:54.390]of individual decision makers as the ones that could decide
[00:19:58.500]to adopt for not adopt.
[00:20:00.810]So looking at farmers of individuals who,
[00:20:02.820]like their decisions are influenced by like stimuli
[00:20:05.910]from external agents like the farm press and extension.
[00:20:10.140]And there was just really little attention paid
[00:20:12.330]to kind of the structural macro social factors
[00:20:15.300]that influenced decisions like policies,
[00:20:18.000]programs, markets and so forth.
[00:20:20.520]And a little questioning in the model of like those,
[00:20:23.637]the structural forces that that influence
[00:20:25.890]change agents and farmers, right?
[00:20:28.080]So kind of the the institutional
[00:20:29.940]social structural background things.
[00:20:32.794]So what happened as a result
[00:20:35.220]of the recognition of those problems?
[00:20:36.360]So late seventies through the eighties,
[00:20:38.880]most rural sociologists like began, you know,
[00:20:41.790]recognizing the problems with diffusion of innovations
[00:20:44.760]as a framework and also the way it had been applied.
[00:20:46.860]Basically they're no longer interested
[00:20:49.110]in helping to modernize agriculture
[00:20:51.630]and they moved on to more kind of political, economic
[00:20:54.450]and neo-Marxist examinations of the food system,
[00:20:57.270]which have been incredibly valuable.
[00:20:59.974]But so, you know, looking at more kind of structural things,
[00:21:02.760]which is great, but the question of how
[00:21:05.010]to help farmers change their
[00:21:07.230]behavior still kind of remained.
[00:21:10.950]And so then in 1985, the farm bill's conservation
[00:21:15.900]title really changed things a lot in terms
[00:21:18.090]of the way we approached soil and water
[00:21:19.860]conservation and agriculture.
[00:21:22.404]Was a huge investment in soil and water conservation,
[00:21:23.760]the establishment of the conservation reserve program that
[00:21:26.490]sets aside sensitive lands as a means of land retirement
[00:21:30.960]for, well a lot of it was kind of economic to control
[00:21:34.199]the robust cycles, but also to save soil,
[00:21:38.430]establishment of different regulations of complying
[00:21:41.820]with different rules about erosion control
[00:21:44.671]and then a lot of promotion of soil and water conservation
[00:21:48.990]best management practices.
[00:21:50.637]And so then we had this question, well, you know,
[00:21:53.070]so if you farmers are doing these practices,
[00:21:54.840]how do we understand the processes through which they adopt
[00:22:00.330]these soil and water conservation practices?
[00:22:02.190]And so a lot of social science folks said, you know what?
[00:22:06.690]We should repurpose this diffusion of innovations
[00:22:09.570]perspective to try to understand
[00:22:11.070]farmers' conservation behaviors.
[00:22:13.224]So this is, if you can't read it back there,
[00:22:16.020]this is the middle cartoon says,
[00:22:17.610]I want you to find a bold and innovative way
[00:22:19.520]to do exactly the same, do everything exactly
[00:22:22.230]the same way it's been done for 25 years.
And so, you know,
[00:22:25.770]in retrospect, you know, looking back on my career
[00:22:28.110]15 years or so in this space,
[00:22:30.060]I feel like this is something I wish I had read earlier,
[00:22:33.840]but I don't want to give away too much.
[00:22:37.530]But that's kind of, pin that there,
[00:22:39.270]and we'll talk about it in a few slides.
[00:22:41.379]But since the eighties there's been a huge amount of social
[00:22:45.750]science research that's focused on soil
[00:22:48.300]water conservation practice adoption.
[00:22:49.830]And so yeah, like lots and lots of studies.
[00:22:54.840]And so what I'm gonna talk about kind of for the rest
[00:22:58.350]of this section of the talk is kind of a summary
[00:23:02.760]of social science research that's been done.
[00:23:05.100]They're, I'm gonna talk about two social science reviews,
[00:23:08.160]one led by my great friend and colleague Linda Prokopy.
[00:23:11.100]She's a Social Scientist at Purdue,
[00:23:13.236]and I'm a co-author of this paper.
[00:23:14.805]And then another, led by another great friend
[00:23:17.160]who's also part of Linda's lab, was part of Linda's lab.
[00:23:20.370]So that first paper is looking at the quantitative or survey
[00:23:23.760]research based survey research based
[00:23:27.240]examinations of adoption.
[00:23:28.680]And the paper number two here is using,
[00:23:31.410]examining the qualitative research or research based
[00:23:34.710]on in depth interviews and focus groups and so forth talking
[00:23:37.020]to farmers about their decision making processes.
[00:23:41.520]So just a real quick background on the study.
[00:23:44.100]So we as a team, there's a number of us on this team.
[00:23:47.889]We decided we're gonna do a follow up
[00:23:50.820]on a paper that Linda did in 2008.
[00:23:53.220]We decided in 2018 that had been a proliferation
[00:23:55.320]of studies on soil and water conservation.
[00:23:57.630]So we're gonna update this.
[00:23:59.220]We collected all the data, I mean all the articles
[00:24:01.920]that we could find from 1982 to 2017, US based only.
[00:24:06.270]And we identified 107 quantitative adoption studies
[00:24:10.020]and 49 qualitative adoption studies.
[00:24:12.240]And I did a meta-analysis of them.
[00:24:15.840]So for this section of the presentation,
[00:24:18.660]I'm gonna just focus on some of the major themes
[00:24:20.850]of the research 'cause there have been
[00:24:23.195]a lot of important findings both from the quantitative
[00:24:25.476]but mostly from the qualitative side.
[00:24:28.142]You know, like I, so I'm gonna talk about
[00:24:30.450]what the quantitative studies have identified
[00:24:32.880]the meta-analysis have identified as like the most
[00:24:36.318]consistent predictors of soil and water conservation
[00:24:37.860]catalyst adoption, both negative and positive.
[00:24:41.220]And I pulled some key quotes
[00:24:43.643]because I love qualitative research and I love the quotes.
[00:24:46.170]And so I pulled some key key quotes from both quantitative
[00:24:49.020]but mostly qualitative studies
[00:24:50.430]to kind of exemplify those findings.
[00:24:54.090]And I just wanna say before we get in there into this is
[00:24:56.880]that there's been a really a proliferation of qualitative
[00:25:00.990]studies on soil and water conservation practices
[00:25:03.990]and it's been incredibly instrumental in our, you know,
[00:25:06.360]really forwarding our understanding much in a much more
[00:25:09.510]nuanced and in depth way than
[00:25:11.479]the quantitative work has been.
[00:25:13.830]And I've also integrating some more recent
[00:25:15.810]like post to 2017 findings into this.
[00:25:18.750]And the final question is what are the major barriers
[00:25:21.270]to and facilitators of practice adoption among farmers?
[00:25:26.520]So I'll jump right in.
[00:25:27.353]So the negative predictors,
[00:25:29.850]I'm gonna start with the negatives,
[00:25:31.560]but these are the barriers to adoption
[00:25:33.300]that we've found in the research.
[00:25:35.280]Probably number one, and I said a little bit
[00:25:37.440]about this with my question yesterday about trauma
[00:25:39.780]in agriculture is risk and perceived risks.
[00:25:43.050]Farmers are terrified that they're gonna lose yield.
[00:25:45.117]And so here's a quote from the study.
[00:25:47.527]"You're talking about yield.
[00:25:48.607]"So if you lose one year, you have one year down
[00:25:51.007]"and that's not just a one year problem.
[00:25:52.837]"Let's say it's only 10 bushels.
[00:25:54.397]"You dropped your 10 year average down one bushel.
[00:25:56.797]"So that would be an issue for me
[00:25:57.847]"because you're doing a cover crop is a risk.
[00:26:00.007]"So now you're not just only getting a risk of investing
[00:26:02.377]"in a cover crop, now you're also losing your yield.
[00:26:04.683]"And so that's not just a one year problem,
[00:26:06.697]"that's a 10 year problem."
[00:26:07.707]And what that farmer is referring to is crop insurance,
[00:26:10.920]which is the basic safety net for crop,
[00:26:15.090]commodity crop farmers in the US and the,
[00:26:18.690]what he's referring to in that 10 year problem is
[00:26:20.850]what they call actual production history.
[00:26:23.400]Your payout on crop insurance in order for a farmer
[00:26:26.550]to guarantee a certain level of revenue that is calculated
[00:26:30.240]based on their 10 year Olympic average of their yields.
[00:26:33.090]And so what this farmer's talking about,
[00:26:34.950]like if they take a hit in a couple years,
[00:26:36.840]which oftentimes they do, if they switch, you know,
[00:26:39.030]to using cover crops or no-till,
[00:26:40.830]there can be an initial hit in yields,
[00:26:44.520]and if that's gonna affect their revenue general,
[00:26:47.490]like their ability to guarantee revenue over a 10 year
[00:26:50.730]perhaps or more period, that's a huge deal, right?
[00:26:53.243]So that's a risk, that's a bridge too far.
[00:26:57.780]There's another negative predictor or barrier to adoption
[00:27:00.840]and that's say big again,
[00:27:02.400]potential yield losses that "I love the cover crop
[00:27:04.747]"as far as the erosion side and all that.
[00:27:06.657]"We have such a pest problem with mice and moles slugs
[00:27:09.157]"and things like that that become secondary predators
[00:27:11.437]"and they eat all the seed.
[00:27:12.697]"We've got guys around here who've had the crops
[00:27:15.067]"four and five times.
[00:27:16.327]"I want do, right?
[00:27:17.160]"And I want to be a better farmer, more eco-friendly farmer,
[00:27:19.987]"but it's costing me more money to try to do that.
[00:27:21.997]"Since our margins are so thin,
[00:27:23.857]"we can't afford to plant a crop
[00:27:25.657]"four or five times and do the right thing."
[00:27:29.168]I think also, you know, another dimension
[00:27:31.560]of the perceived risks as timing.
[00:27:33.521]So, "our biggest issue with cover crop is that we don't have
[00:27:36.817]"a lot of people on the farm and it's another process that
[00:27:38.947]"has to be done in a time of the season
[00:27:41.017]"that is already hectic and filled with 12
[00:27:43.285]"and 15 hour days and just cannot seem to get it all done."
[00:27:45.720]And another one.
[00:27:46.553]"I've talked to a lot of the cover crop guys,
[00:27:48.217]"if you're going to try to do it after tillage,
[00:27:49.957]"our growing season is so short,
[00:27:51.757]"I also have to address my management
[00:27:53.310]"because if I going to rip or do any fall tillage,
[00:27:56.077]"then cover crops just doesn't fit in this."
[00:27:57.930]So these, I'd love to unpack some of these for you
[00:28:00.330]because they've got a lot more information
[00:28:01.890]in them than I'm able to to say.
[00:28:03.839]But one thing I would say is that the planting windows
[00:28:07.050]in some parts of the Midwest are becoming much shorter
[00:28:09.930]and planting and harvest windows are becoming much shorter
[00:28:12.330]because of climate change.
[00:28:13.410]We've got wetter, cooler springs.
[00:28:16.080]And so farmers perceive that
[00:28:18.560]as the planting windows get shorter,
[00:28:20.940]that the perceive the potential risks
[00:28:23.070]of not being able to get the crop in.
[00:28:24.960]Not being able to terminate a cover crop in time
[00:28:27.330]to get the crop in is a really big deal.
[00:28:30.834]And that of course cost economics is in, you know,
[00:28:33.420]farmers are business people, right?
[00:28:34.770]So any, you know, everything has an economic bend,
[00:28:38.310]but there's a lot of economics involved.
[00:28:40.440]So here's, this is an interesting one
[00:28:42.210]because it's from a somebody who works
[00:28:44.280]for the Natural Resources Conservation Service
[00:28:46.110]and has his job is to actually promote cover crops.
[00:28:49.350]And this is a quote for him.
[00:28:50.280]So, "just take cover crops with one example.
[00:28:53.303]"I work for NRCS.
[00:28:54.136]"I see all the data. "I've listened to all that stuff,
[00:28:55.837]"but then I also look at, okay, it's $30 an acre.
[00:28:58.507]"That's a big cost, I mean in my budget now,
[00:29:00.083]"it's a big cost."
[00:29:01.440]And he was a beginning farmer that was renting
[00:29:03.270]all the land that he farmed.
[00:29:05.070]And so just the idea that $30 was just too much
[00:29:08.910]for him to pick it up.
[00:29:10.710]Here's another one.
[00:29:11.543]"It's getting cheaper now,
[00:29:12.376]"but what does that, what does it cost to establish that?
[00:29:14.587]"They've done the math before.
[00:29:15.697]"And about the incentives, the CSP program last year's
[00:29:18.697]"equip, last year's state of Iowa incentive programs.
[00:29:21.427]"It's hard to put the math to cover crop unless you can
[00:29:23.707]"put a number, a dollar value on that nitrate saved."
[00:29:26.940]I'd like to point out that this is a study
[00:29:28.863]that Andrea Roesch and another Iowa State
[00:29:32.580]graduate student led and did an amazing job.
[00:29:35.531]One of the most cited cover crop studies out there.
[00:29:40.950]Another really big component of farmer adoption of really
[00:29:45.300]anything is like their, what we call self-efficacy,
[00:29:48.210]like their perceived capacity to get it done.
[00:29:50.940]Like do they feel confident in their ability to do it?
[00:29:53.910]And so these are both quotes from quantitative studies,
[00:29:56.850]but what we found is like if a farmer makes sense, right?
[00:30:00.410]If a farmer feels confident enough to do,
[00:30:04.560]adopt, they will, but if they don't, they won't.
[00:30:06.540]So you know, there's "lower levels of perceived
[00:30:09.310]"agronomic capacity to implement
[00:30:10.447]"conservation practices associated with lower
[00:30:12.577]"likelihood of cover crop adoption, right?
[00:30:14.437]"So farmers who tend to view nutrient loss reduction
[00:30:16.987]"is a difficult challenge
[00:30:19.009]"were less likely to use cover crops."
[00:30:21.427]"Farmers were more likely to already
[00:30:23.287]"use cover crops if they are more willing to take risks,
[00:30:25.507]"had more education, greater response efficacy
[00:30:27.847]"than lower limited acreage and higher sense
[00:30:30.007]"of control in order nutrient loss."
[00:30:33.720]So what I've been talking about so far
[00:30:35.670]are more like individual level factors.
[00:30:37.860]And so some of the recent research,
[00:30:39.810]and I did talk about kind of structural macro social issues
[00:30:43.650]and things to think about earlier on,
[00:30:46.170]and a lot of the qualitative research has been
[00:30:48.810]really good at kind of pulling these things out.
[00:30:50.940]So I'll talk about these next.
[00:30:53.303]So barriers without like the structural
[00:30:54.330]barriers with adoption are huge.
[00:30:56.850]And one of them is lack of markets and infrastructure.
[00:30:59.670]So this is one person talking about small grains,
[00:31:02.520]which are really important,
[00:31:03.810]integral part of any kind of extended rotations, right?
[00:31:06.817]"Well if small grains were more competitive and viable,
[00:31:09.067]"I'll put those in a rotation,
[00:31:11.220]"but right now they don't compete. "They just don't compete.
[00:31:13.057]"Even soybeans be right now.
[00:31:14.737]"That's why you see so much corn."
[00:31:16.407]And this is another.
[00:31:17.310]This is a quote from a quantitative study.
[00:31:19.177]"Many Iowa farmers believe that more facilitating
[00:31:21.577]"infrastructure, educational, institutional,
[00:31:23.527]"and technical were available to them,
[00:31:25.267]"they would be more likely to use cover crops."
[00:31:29.010]And then we have like the whole kind of policy
[00:31:30.870]and programs infrastructure that farmers have to navigate.
[00:31:34.080]And here's one about, let's see.
[00:31:36.277]"The farm program doesn't really allow
[00:31:38.197]"for more diverse crop rotation,
[00:31:39.547]"which is pretty standard for soil health
[00:31:41.934]"and water quality things that we want to be doing.
[00:31:43.657]"But the farm program leads farmers
[00:31:45.187]"to just corn and soybeans.
[00:31:46.687]"My basic goal is to be a steward of the land.
[00:31:48.847]"But when politics won't let you do that,
[00:31:50.497]"I feel like you're kind of trapping the deal sometimes."
[00:31:53.520]And here's another one citing some programmatic hurdles.
[00:31:57.877]"You have to wait 60 days for this.
[00:31:59.437]"You can't buy anything.
[00:32:00.397]"You can't pre-purchase anything
[00:32:01.927]"until all this paperwork is done,
[00:32:03.367]"and then it's like, you're kind of like, I don't know,
[00:32:05.077]"do I really want to do all this hoop jumping
[00:32:06.727]"for just a little bit of funding?
[00:32:07.743]"And maybe it's a lot of funding, maybe it's worth it.
[00:32:10.417]"But that's what you kind of sit there and debate
[00:32:12.337]"and then after you debate in your mind,
[00:32:13.927]"a lot of times you're kind of like, I don't want to do it."
[00:32:16.516]So it was like these hoops that a federal,
[00:32:19.020]particularly the federal programs ask farmers to and owners
[00:32:22.860]to jump through in order to get the cost share.
[00:32:24.750]It's a big deal.
[00:32:26.400]And then probably the biggest deal is rented land.
[00:32:29.642]Rented land, particularly in the most fertile areas
[00:32:33.300]of the corn belt, some of the counties have
[00:32:35.640]upwards of 70 and so there's counties in Illinois
[00:32:37.553]that are 80% rented land.
[00:32:40.770]And so it's a big deal.
[00:32:44.640]This is one.
[00:32:45.517]"So we need landowners out there that are demanding
[00:32:47.377]"cover crops and willing to fund it.
[00:32:49.057]"And also, why would you want as a tenant?
[00:32:50.887]"Do you really want to go out and approve the soil
[00:32:52.657]"so the next time the cash rent option comes around
[00:32:55.087]"and neighbors are gonna say, who's kind of improve that?
[00:32:57.891]"I think we can bid that up.
[00:32:58.927]"So now you've shot yourself in the foot kind of."
[00:33:01.519]So this quote is like, am I really gonna invest
[00:33:03.240]in the rented land If, you know, our,
[00:33:05.040]my landlord who lives in Chicago is just gonna put it out
[00:33:08.130]for, you know, cash rent bid and you know,
[00:33:10.530]rent it out from under of me.
[00:33:12.687]And there's another one.
[00:33:13.676]"I think that's where the biggest rubs going to be is
[00:33:15.727]"if your landlord is in on this.
[00:33:17.651]"And a lot of them, my mother, I rent some ground from her.
[00:33:19.987]"The first three years I put cover crops.
[00:33:22.538]"She says, well you got some weeds on your own field.
[00:33:23.947]"How'd you get weeds so bad?
[00:33:25.537]"Nobody else has looked like that, and the guy's like,
[00:33:27.997]"and this is my own mother."
[00:33:29.220]Like, so he's trying to convince his mom who's his landlord
[00:33:32.550]that cover crops are a good thing
[00:33:33.690]and he's having a hard time.
[00:33:35.353]And so you can imagine like you're trying to convince
[00:33:36.600]somebody who, who doesn't even live in the county,
[00:33:38.670]you hardly see it all.
[00:33:40.620]So it's huge and I can spend hours talking about it.
[00:33:45.360]So now we've talked about some of the major barriers
[00:33:48.000]and so I'll shift to some of the facilitators,
[00:33:50.703]the you know, the positive predictors of adoption.
[00:33:53.370]So of course perceived benefits and that's a big part
[00:33:55.637]of the diffusion of innovation model is
[00:33:57.908]it beneficial relative to what I'm doing right now?
[00:34:01.890]So here's a quote.
[00:34:02.827]"We actually started seeing the benefits,
[00:34:04.177]"and we just kept with it after that.
[00:34:05.797]"We weren't seeing near the erosion and we weren't
[00:34:07.687]"seeing near the impact from the heavy rains we've
[00:34:09.907]"been getting the last few years.
[00:34:11.077]"Our water, if there's any at all
[00:34:12.487]"coming off it, it's crystal clear.
[00:34:14.347]"You go over the next field and the water coming off that is
[00:34:16.357]"brown because I mean it's just taking
[00:34:18.007]"that heavy beating from that rain."
[00:34:20.820]Another big important part of the diffusion of innovations
[00:34:24.570]perspective is perceived compatibility
[00:34:26.430]with current systems and practices.
[00:34:28.770]So these are some quantitative studies.
[00:34:30.517]"Cover crop compatibility with the producer's current
[00:34:33.097]"farming system was important
[00:34:35.169]"for every producer who had adopted it.
[00:34:37.070]"They were using annual rye grass specifically because they
[00:34:38.737]"were practicing no-till.
[00:34:39.757]"Annual rye grass was seen as beneficial for no-till
[00:34:42.367]"because of its deep root system."
[00:34:44.160]And "our findings show that conservation practices should be
[00:34:46.597]"compatible or perceived to be compatible
[00:34:48.457]"with farmers' farm management needs,
[00:34:50.287]"especially infield practices like cover crops that would
[00:34:52.777]"change farmers' current management strategies."
[00:34:55.260]So that's a really critical thing
[00:34:57.060]to focus on as a facility here of adoption.
[00:35:00.120]And then systems thinking is one that's
[00:35:02.850]really come, is from recent research.
[00:35:06.150]Sarah Church, a colleague of mine who's
[00:35:07.620]now at Montana State, was at Purdue.
[00:35:09.780]A study that she did really found that, you know,
[00:35:11.820]the farmers that were doing the best in terms of soil
[00:35:16.227]and water conservation practice adoption
[00:35:17.883]were kind of the holistic thinkers.
[00:35:19.530]Those that are thinking in terms of you know,
[00:35:21.870]the whole farm system.
[00:35:24.090]So this is a quote from her paper.
[00:35:25.627]"Farmers who had implemented cover crops were thinking
[00:35:28.297]"about their farms as an interconnected system.
[00:35:30.967]"These results reflect what has emerged in other research.
[00:35:33.817]"Conservation of adopters have a systems
[00:35:36.259]"thinking approach to farm management decision."
[00:35:37.980]And this is another quote.
[00:35:38.813]"I look at it as a system.
[00:35:40.027]"You got to do the whole system.
[00:35:41.407]"Just to do one piece?
[00:35:42.367]"One piece, it doesn't work.
[00:35:43.747]"They get discouraged and say it's no good,
[00:35:45.697]"and they're not gonna do it anymore.
[00:35:46.957]"You need to do everything."
[00:35:48.000]And this is really, you know, it's kind of a return
[00:35:50.340]to what farmers had to do in the thirties, right,
[00:35:52.710]that they had to think about in the system.
[00:35:55.113]But as we replace the agroecological processes
[00:35:57.480]with the purchase inputs,
[00:35:58.800]it became kind of easy button farming and farmers kind of,
[00:36:03.480]a lot of farmers I think have lost that capacity and desire,
[00:36:06.900]but there's a lot of farmers out there that
[00:36:08.310]really want to be sustainers.
[00:36:13.338]We talked about rented lands,
[00:36:14.430]of course supportive landlords are hugely important.
[00:36:16.770]So here's one of "the presence
[00:36:17.707]"of the supportive landowner or not renting
[00:36:20.227]"has also emerged as a significant
[00:36:21.697]"factor in adoption.
[00:36:23.361]"Those who consider their landlord are supportive of cover
[00:36:25.479]"crops or who don't rent land are more likely to have larger
[00:36:27.457]"proportions of their land cases practice."
[00:36:29.730]Here's another one.
[00:36:30.972]"Some landowners and the landlords are supportive
[00:36:32.407]"of their renters taking conservation oriented action
[00:36:34.657]"on land and very willing to provide
[00:36:36.577]"the support through such action
[00:36:37.837]"as extended the link of their operators,
[00:36:39.997]"length of operators lease of facilitating implementation
[00:36:42.757]"of conservation practices on their land."
[00:36:44.757]And that's, we wish that more landowners
[00:36:46.950]were willing to do that.
[00:36:48.090]And actually there's some programs that are,
[00:36:50.070]try to do some outreach with ranchers.
[00:36:53.430]Another really important kind of positive predictor
[00:36:56.220]of adoption is like those farmers who spend a lot of time
[00:36:59.460]trying to learn new things
[00:37:00.720]and you would anticipate this, right?
[00:37:02.607]But farmers that through survey research in particular,
[00:37:06.060]you know talk about, you know,
[00:37:07.080]they seek and they go to field days.
[00:37:09.420]They go to to different kinds of seminars and workshops
[00:37:12.780]on conservation and other kind of innovative practices,
[00:37:15.900]especially if they're trusted entities.
[00:37:17.850]So here's a quote.
[00:37:18.847]"I tend to look toward university sources and research that
[00:37:21.990]you tend to interpret them as being unbiased.
[00:37:24.390]You don't necessarily put as much faith in commercially
[00:37:26.490]funded research that's promoting their time.
[00:37:28.260]It's a little harder to trust if it,
[00:37:30.210]even if it is maybe fine research."
[00:37:33.713]"Either your fellow farmers that you can trust or your
[00:37:35.347]"agronomists would be the first ones I would think of.
[00:37:38.077]"I've actually been trying to mentor myself with farmers
[00:37:40.117]"in my area that I consider kind
[00:37:41.467]"of a pinnacle of conservation.
[00:37:43.237]"Asking them questions, not trying to bother them
[00:37:45.097]"but driving by their fields to see what they're doing."
[00:37:47.010]So those kind of farmers that are curious about
[00:37:49.740]conservation tend adopt more as you might anticipate.
[00:37:54.900]Then farmers that already have diversified
[00:37:57.060]systems and have livestock tend to have to be more likely
[00:38:02.130]to plant cover crops for example.
[00:38:04.573]And we're so yeah, cover crops.
[00:38:07.890]And then here's a quote from qualitative study.
[00:38:10.087]"We used to have a lot of hay and oats.
[00:38:11.961]"And most livestock guys still have that same system.
[00:38:13.927]"I always thought that if we had corn,
[00:38:15.247]"beans and wheat or something like that to help them break
[00:38:17.227]"up the cycle more, then it'll be
[00:38:18.817]"better for the environment.
[00:38:19.747]"But unless you're a livestock person,
[00:38:21.367]"then you're not going to probably break up
[00:38:23.107]"your rotation to that extent."
[00:38:24.570]So diversified systems can be a kind of a positive
[00:38:27.930]facilitator, but at the same time lack
[00:38:29.670]of diversity is a barrier.
[00:38:33.360]And then of course awareness.
[00:38:34.830]I mean this is the first building stone
[00:38:37.445]of the diffusion of innovations perspective.
[00:38:40.860]And so awareness and concern about soil
[00:38:42.867]and water issues is definitely a positive predictor.
[00:38:46.285]Particularly soil health, which I had time to talk
[00:38:48.540]about farmers' perspectives on soil health
[00:38:50.340]'cause it's pretty important.
[00:38:51.570]But here's a quote.
[00:38:52.403]"There's a time when we didn't
[00:38:54.346]"use cover crops because I essentially have
[00:38:55.267]"no one out there saying yeah, but you need to use
[00:38:57.667]"cover crops for all these other reasons.
[00:38:59.677]"We need to be able to use it to suppress medias or build
[00:39:01.807]"diversity and sequester carbon.
[00:39:03.517]"And those weren't even, I've never heard of such a thing.
[00:39:06.567]"I mean it wasn't until later on when I began to get around
[00:39:09.097]"people advocating for soil health that
[00:39:11.167]"I came back in the big way."
[00:39:12.240]So this is a part that started to really become aware
[00:39:14.700]of the soil health benefits,
[00:39:15.870]of soil and water conservation practices.
[00:39:18.720]And here's another one.
[00:39:19.553]"You know, if you're focused on maximizing production,
[00:39:21.937]"you might not necessarily be doing
[00:39:23.197]"what's best for the soil short term.
[00:39:24.757]"But I think, you know, I'm kind of leaning toward
[00:39:26.707]"what's best for the soil.
[00:39:27.847]"I take care of the soil in the short term,
[00:39:30.151]"long term my yields would reflect that."
[00:39:34.080]And others like one that's of course makes total sense.
[00:39:37.410]But stewardship identity has received a lot of focus
[00:39:41.220]in the literature these days,
[00:39:42.330]particularly in qualitative research.
[00:39:44.490]You know, so farmers that talk about having
[00:39:47.520]a stronger stewardship ethic and starter identity
[00:39:50.940]and stewardship motivations just tend
[00:39:53.340]to do more conservation.
[00:39:54.840]Of course that makes sense,
[00:39:56.070]but it's something that's kind of newer.
[00:39:58.230]The qualitative research has been focusing on in a while,
[00:39:59.970]but it's really coming out
[00:40:01.832]in the qualitative research as well.
[00:40:05.640]And then there's some just a list of other important
[00:40:08.490]factors that this meta-analysis of quantitative research
[00:40:12.781]looked at some attitudes toward programs
[00:40:15.330]and practices similar to like attitudes toward
[00:40:18.270]the actual like attitudes about the environment,
[00:40:22.470]attitudes toward particular programs and specifically
[00:40:24.810]practices positive attitudes or positive (mumbles).
[00:40:27.429]If you're already, you know, participating in a program
[00:40:31.590]like some sort of soil and water conservation program,
[00:40:34.350]of course you're more likely to participate in others,
[00:40:37.350]use of complimentary practices like so no-till that's seen
[00:40:40.650]as a gateway at the cover crops.
[00:40:43.230]And then farm size and income, larger scale operations
[00:40:45.900]tend to be more likely to use a lot of the soil,
[00:40:49.320]water best management practices,
[00:40:51.030]which seems odd but it's true.
[00:40:54.940]Okay, so one of the most important
[00:40:58.170]findings from the reviews.
[00:40:59.670]And so from the survey research,
[00:41:02.227]I could have shared a lot of tables
[00:41:04.800]from the meta-analysis of the survey research.
[00:41:08.040]One of the really important findings is that a lot
[00:41:11.970]of the variables that we include in the survey
[00:41:14.070]research paper based papers are not significant at all.
[00:41:18.060]Sometimes they're significant in the opposite way
[00:41:20.850]of what could be hypothesized.
[00:41:22.830]So basically one of our major findings from this
[00:41:25.770]meta-analysis is that we're doing a pretty poor job
[00:41:28.320]of modeling soil and water conservation practice adoption.
[00:41:31.827]We're doing, we're kind of doing our best,
[00:41:33.180]but the variables that we're using are not good predictors
[00:41:37.980]for the most part of conservation adoption.
[00:41:42.000]And you know, another important thing,
[00:41:44.580]like most of the variables that we tend to include in these
[00:41:48.870]studies are like positive predictors.
[00:41:50.760]We put in a lot of like variables that are
[00:41:53.269]you know, potential facilitators,
[00:41:56.370]but survey research has focused a lot less on the barriers.
[00:41:59.520]And the number one thing from my perspective
[00:42:03.000]and one of the things I'm like trying to get much better at,
[00:42:05.700]'cause I'm as guilty as any of them,
[00:42:07.320]I'm focusing on like the individual level decision making
[00:42:10.230]is a focus on structural factors because it's really kind
[00:42:13.560]of a macro social, you know,
[00:42:15.330]policy market level stuff that is the strongest,
[00:42:19.477]really the strongest predictors of whether or not farmers,
[00:42:23.369]you know, do soil and water conservation practices
[00:42:26.160]or shift to more agroecological based systems.
[00:42:29.610]And so that was a big finding at the end of that
[00:42:32.700]the Prokopy, et al study.
[00:42:33.780]We basically said we are doing
[00:42:35.160]a piss poor job of focusing on structure.
[00:42:39.450]Another really important finding from these reviews,
[00:42:42.060]it's that qualitative research is much better at documenting
[00:42:45.240]barriers to change barriers to shifting
[00:42:48.180]toward less damaging systems.
[00:42:51.383]You know, they've pointed out like really well,
[00:42:54.660]like incapabilities between conservation and specialized
[00:42:57.900]commodity production, you know,
[00:42:59.640]specialized commodity production,
[00:43:01.758]the economics of it really privileges,
[00:43:03.360]short term focus on income getting by year to year.
[00:43:07.020]'Cause your profit margins are razor thin.
[00:43:09.060]You just gotta make it to the next year.
[00:43:10.710]I've had many farmers tell me, you know,
[00:43:13.770]if I'm not economically sustainable in the short term,
[00:43:16.920]there's no way I can be ecologically
[00:43:18.630]or environmentally sustainable in the long term.
[00:43:21.330]And for me that's like shorthand for I'm cutting corners
[00:43:24.210]because I wanna make it, you know, to next year.
[00:43:26.490]And that's a problem, right, for them and for us.
[00:43:30.690]Lack of markets for alternative crops,
[00:43:32.875]lack of kind of market incentives
[00:43:35.310]for diverse extended rotations,
[00:43:36.870]which we know are better for the environment.
[00:43:40.530]There's you know, you can grow oats in Iowa,
[00:43:42.870]but there's not much market.
[00:43:45.360]And then uncertainty about the effects of soil and water
[00:43:47.370]conservation practices or changing
[00:43:49.230]any part of the system is, you know,
[00:43:52.860]uncertain about how that's gonna affect yields is huge here.
[00:43:56.310]And also, you know, the qualitative research
[00:43:58.350]has been good at like helping us understand the nuances
[00:44:02.460]of how the government programs are not serving well.
[00:44:06.870]They're very rigid and they're hard to jump
[00:44:10.140]through all those hoops.
[00:44:10.973]And then again, rented land is a major element.
[00:44:15.570]Qualitative research is also documented
[00:44:18.360]nuances about motivations, what makes adopters tick.
[00:44:22.110]And so as I mentioned that system's thinking
[00:44:24.710]is really important, better documentation.
[00:44:27.150]So speaking to the research community now,
[00:44:29.310]like better documentation,
[00:44:31.230]research based documentation of the on-farm benefits
[00:44:34.440]of the soil and water conservation practices
[00:44:36.870]like soil health, erosion control.
[00:44:39.390]That's really important to farmers.
[00:44:42.420]The value of cost share has come
[00:44:43.920]through very well through that, particularly like
[00:44:45.990]state programs and then private sector NGO
[00:44:48.900]programs that have a lot fewer hoops to jump through
[00:44:51.810]and a lot less rigid than the federal programs.
[00:44:54.510]That's been a really important finding that's come from the,
[00:44:56.910]some of the qualitative research
[00:44:58.590]and kind of tells us, you know,
[00:45:00.930]those state and and NGO programs are super great
[00:45:04.380]because they allow flexibility but they're not funded
[00:45:07.140]at nearly at the level that the federal programs are funded.
[00:45:11.700]So we really have to take a hard look at infrastructure
[00:45:14.220]of those federal programs
[00:45:15.297]and ask ourselves are they effective?
[00:45:17.550]And then, you know, a big one is the power
[00:45:19.320]of civic engagements.
[00:45:20.790]You know, farmers working together,
[00:45:22.620]farmers working with NGOs, farmers working with other,
[00:45:25.420]you know, extension and agency networks,
[00:45:27.690]particularly if they have local
[00:45:28.800]leadership from farmer networks, watershed coordinators
[00:45:31.950]that really understand the local factors.
[00:45:34.380]And that's another major finally about the positive
[00:45:37.860]predictors of soil and water conservation behaviors.
[00:45:41.550]Whew, all right.
[00:45:43.453]So sorry about the fire hose,
[00:45:44.880]but there's a lot to get through there.
[00:45:46.974]So now I'd like to kind of switch gears,
[00:45:49.132]and talk a little bit about the implications for you know,
[00:45:52.770]research toward kind of outreach and policy transformations.
[00:45:59.164]So, you know, we talked about positive predictors
[00:46:02.340]and these flow pretty well from what I just talked about.
[00:46:05.100]So, you know, farmers engaged in conservation,
[00:46:08.010]social networks are more likely to adopt,
[00:46:10.389]is that that civic engagement and so forth.
[00:46:13.620]But so that means like the efforts that we have
[00:46:16.620]to like reach farmers and engage them
[00:46:19.080]in these conservation oriented networks are really,
[00:46:21.270]that's really important.
[00:46:22.103]We need to keep that up.
[00:46:23.220]But the reality is that a lot of times
[00:46:25.080]we're preaching to the choir.
[00:46:26.340]The same people are showing up at the field days
[00:46:28.770]and the workshops and so forth
[00:46:30.330]and the majority of farmers are not even showing up.
[00:46:33.450]And so how to reach those,
[00:46:35.880]we call 'em the non-choir farmers.
[00:46:37.500]How to reach the non-choir farmers
[00:46:38.970]is a really big conundrum.
[00:46:40.890]So we have to figure out ways to reach them.
[00:46:44.130]Some people have said, and I think it's probably true,
[00:46:46.050]is like if we can convince their
[00:46:47.730]crop advisors who are their most trusted advisors,
[00:46:50.520]the people who they buy agrochemicals from,
[00:46:52.800]if we can convince their crop advisors to also be selling
[00:46:56.280]conservation alongside their products,
[00:47:00.000]which has a little bit of conflict of interest there.
[00:47:05.160]But we can at least try and like think down that,
[00:47:08.961]and then, you know, continuing to cultivate
[00:47:10.770]those stewardship identities and stewardship ethics
[00:47:13.470]and then promoting that like systems thinking
[00:47:15.651]and agroecological thinking,
[00:47:16.710]something we've lost a lot of in the last,
[00:47:18.667]you know, 60 years, right, 60, 70 years.
[00:47:21.570]And we can start, I mean,
[00:47:23.250]I would argue that Land Grant University
[00:47:25.260]does not do nearly a good enough job to, of helping farmers
[00:47:28.950]and even ourselves to think agroecologically.
[00:47:32.610]So, you know, in terms of addressing those barriers,
[00:47:35.160]those uncertainties about impacts
[00:47:37.080]on yields and bottom lines, like,
[00:47:38.730]so one of the things that's really clear
[00:47:41.730]from the literature is that farmers are risk averse, right?
[00:47:44.880]A lot of us are risk averse,
[00:47:47.040]but they might perceive the benefits.
[00:47:48.630]Like a lot of farmers will tell you,
[00:47:50.828]I totally understand the benefits of cover crops,
[00:47:53.940]but I'm not willing to risk a yield hit.
[00:47:56.803]So instead of like focusing on communicating
[00:47:59.910]the benefits of cover crops,
[00:48:01.620]we should be talking about risk management in cover crops.
[00:48:04.320]Like how can we avoid the yield hit?
[00:48:07.170]And there's strategies that we can do for avoiding that
[00:48:10.680]yield hit would come across for example.
[00:48:13.530]Making government programs more flexible,
[00:48:15.120]I've talked about that.
[00:48:16.230]Then rented land, we really need to do a lot
[00:48:19.200]more work with landowners.
[00:48:20.490]And it's hard because, you know, for every farmer
[00:48:23.990]there's a lot more landowners because land,
[00:48:26.116]like land management is really concentrated
[00:48:27.420]in the hands of few farmers.
[00:48:28.800]Land ownership is diffuse, a lot of landowners.
[00:48:32.250]So if you take any like thousand acre or you know,
[00:48:35.340]640 acre section of land,
[00:48:37.290]you may have a dozen landowners there or you may have a 40,
[00:48:40.620]you know, a 40 acre piece that has 12 landowners.
[00:48:42.717]And so how do you reach all those landowners?
[00:48:46.040]It's a difficult challenge,
[00:48:48.030]but I, we have to solve it because they're controlling,
[00:48:50.880]you know, upwards of 80% of the land
[00:48:52.470]in some parts of the country.
[00:48:54.192]So if we're not working with them and farmers,
[00:48:56.280]you know, farmers are, they don't wanna lose the, you know,
[00:48:59.972]lose their land or they're afraid to broach the subject
[00:49:02.070]with their landowners and their landlords.
[00:49:03.660]So how do we figure that out?
[00:49:06.000]And there's some,
[00:49:06.833]I can get into some of the details on that.
[00:49:08.190]There's some really like innovative cool programs
[00:49:10.920]out there that are doing all this stuff.
[00:49:12.777]And then I think most importantly is like how can
[00:49:16.470]we chart some pathways to make it like,
[00:49:18.810]so we can see some sort of other models that
[00:49:21.570]are not just the specialized commodity production?
[00:49:24.270]I know there's a lot of people around this room that are
[00:49:25.980]working hard on that and I just would say
[00:49:28.230]keep going because farmers,
[00:49:30.891]I talk to a lot of farmers and they would love to have
[00:49:33.750]something else to be able to plant, you know.
[00:49:35.880]Sometimes, I mean crop price is pretty good
[00:49:38.040]right now relative to historical record,
[00:49:41.030]but in a lot of years they're like, do I plant corn?
[00:49:44.100]Do I plant soybeans?
[00:49:45.240]Neither one of these is a good option for me
[00:49:47.670]because the way that the markets look, right.
[00:49:49.950]I'm gonna lose money if it's not, you know,
[00:49:51.840]crop insurance to pick up slack.
[00:49:53.760]So, you know, trying to chart pathways toward
[00:49:56.070]diverse alternatives to specialized
[00:49:57.780]commodity production good.
[00:49:59.070]And a lot of farmers are really wanting that.
[00:50:04.140]I think, so this is a, this is note to self.
[00:50:06.540]I think we need to improve
[00:50:08.190]the quantitative social science research.
[00:50:10.776]You know, qualitative research has really led the way
[00:50:14.010]in terms of understanding the nuances
[00:50:15.950]of a lot of the key issues.
[00:50:18.150]You know, that structural and macro social factors
[00:50:20.610]are really driving decisions like policy, programs, markets.
[00:50:24.270]Positive attitudes only go so far.
[00:50:26.010]You know, you can be really positive about something,
[00:50:27.780]but if there's like structural impediments to you doing it
[00:50:32.070]like crop insurance, shifts in crop insurance,
[00:50:34.877]you're not gonna do it.
[00:50:36.330]And that, you know, the thin margins
[00:50:38.010]and input dependence really privileges short term thinking.
[00:50:41.358]It makes investment in conservation or any kind of change
[00:50:44.790]other than the status quo difficult and you know,
[00:50:49.530]less polluting and less soil degrading alternatives to corn
[00:50:52.591]and soybean less complex are really seen as non-economic.
[00:50:56.160]And it's really hard for farmers
[00:50:58.623]to like imagine alternatives.
[00:51:00.570]Like the creativity and imagination has
[00:51:02.705]been squeezed out of agriculture in so many ways back,
[00:51:05.700]kind of our rigid policies that focus on, you know,
[00:51:08.905]commodity corn and soybeans,
[00:51:11.940]which as y'all have pointed out,
[00:51:13.530]not many of you have pointed out like
[00:51:15.634]the corn that farmers are growing,
[00:51:16.467]it's not even food for people.
[00:51:17.640]People can't eat it.
[00:51:22.800]So I think probably the most important thing that I will
[00:51:27.150]leave you with is, you can probably
[00:51:28.650]tell this by now, is that, you know,
[00:51:29.790]we have to address the structural barriers of particularly
[00:51:33.000]market and policy structures.
[00:51:34.440]I mean we're privileging these corn and soybean markets,
[00:51:39.810]and if you look at, you know, crop insurance,
[00:51:43.650]there's also risk management programs,
[00:51:45.540]the price loss coverage
[00:51:46.830]and agricultural risk coverage program.
[00:51:48.840]They privileged the major commodity crops and then if you
[00:51:52.470]look over the last 40 years or so, in most years,
[00:51:56.880]government payments informed by the crop insurance
[00:51:59.250]or some other direct payments
[00:52:00.900]and things have changed over the years,
[00:52:02.700]but they make up I think an average about 40%
[00:52:05.820]of farm net income, which is huge.
[00:52:09.540]You mean we've been floating this boat
[00:52:12.480]that's actually degrading our
[00:52:13.710]natural resources for a long, long time.
[00:52:16.800]We also have the renewable fuel standard,
[00:52:18.690]which I think a lot of you here
[00:52:21.077]in (mumbles) are probably familiar with.
[00:52:22.710]It basically stipulates that certain amount of ethanol,
[00:52:26.700]corn ethanol, could be other sources
[00:52:28.980]but it's corn ethanol, be blended into gasoline.
[00:52:33.480]And so that raises grain prices like 40, 45% of corn goes,
[00:52:38.730]I may be wrong, but it's about 45% of corn
[00:52:41.490]goes into ethanol, right?
[00:52:42.885]It doesn't go into animals.
[00:52:43.890]It doesn't go into people.
[00:52:44.974]It goes into our cars.
[00:52:47.160]And so that really artificially points the price of corn.
[00:52:50.307]And so the question I keep coming to is like,
[00:52:52.680]how can we change these programs so they kind of support
[00:52:55.620]long-term risk management that allows farmers to like shift
[00:52:59.880]into more accurate ecological and regenerative practice
[00:53:02.190]systems rather than degrading ones.
[00:53:04.590]So that's kind of the question of our time I think is like,
[00:53:06.898]how are we gonna get out of this?
[00:53:10.410]So just some concluding thoughts.
[00:53:11.850]So we've been at this for 90 plus years and when I say been
[00:53:15.270]at this like the whole modernization project
[00:53:17.400]and then the whole soil and water conservation adoption,
[00:53:20.400]like to try to undo some of the ills
[00:53:22.380]of the modernization project.
[00:53:23.640]And you know, this industrial agriculture
[00:53:26.550]and soil and water conservation model is not working,
[00:53:29.929]at least it's not working well.
[00:53:31.950]You know, conservation practices are basically patches
[00:53:35.310]and if you look across the landscape,
[00:53:37.140]they're not applied anywhere close to the level
[00:53:40.170]that we need to be at.
[00:53:41.850]We're just driving from Iowa on Tuesday afternoon.
[00:53:45.420]Like unbelievable amount of real erosion,
[00:53:48.270]probably erosion happening even on no-till fields.
[00:53:50.580]Just because, you know, the soil structure
[00:53:53.820]from the cropping systems is not, it's not good.
[00:53:57.780]And so we need, they need cover crops there.
[00:54:00.780]They need, you know, extended rotations,
[00:54:05.250]but you know, these dominant systems,
[00:54:07.140]they're held together with fossil fuels,
[00:54:08.820]petrochemicals, and subsidies, right?
[00:54:10.410]So those are, that's what the ecologists
[00:54:12.990]in the room would call like a rigidity trap.
[00:54:14.580]We're kind of stuck in a trap of our own making.
[00:54:18.510]We're propping it up, and that's a hard place to be.
[00:54:22.170]But as I've mentioned, you know, there's a lot of farmers
[00:54:24.030]that are frustrated with this status quo situation.
[00:54:27.480]They lack choices.
[00:54:30.180]They lack freedom.
[00:54:31.290]I think, you know, I was talking with Sarah Vogel
[00:54:32.670]yesterday and I was like, well, how can we deal with this?
[00:54:35.100]And like, why don't we sell it as freedom?
[00:54:36.870]You know, it's, people are all about like,
[00:54:39.060]freedom to do this, freedom to do that.
[00:54:40.710]What about freedom from like this kind of corn, soybean,
[00:54:45.810]livestock, industrial complex?
[00:54:48.900]And you know, there's just not a lot of room
[00:54:50.820]for creativity in these kind of systems.
[00:54:52.800]And I think a lot of farmers lament that.
[00:54:55.080]Of course there are a lot of farmers who are easy about,
[00:54:57.789]the farmers don't have any answer to it,
[00:54:58.622]but there's a lot of 'em that we've talked to
[00:55:00.458]and they're like, particularly the younger ones,
[00:55:02.010]they're like, no, we would like to have some choices.
[00:55:04.350]We'd like to do something different, but we just can't.
[00:55:08.820]So, you know, I think just critical need for more research
[00:55:11.940]and then policy action on structural barriers,
[00:55:14.520]like the importance of the lack of markets and like this
[00:55:17.880]technology path and this lock in that farmers have.
[00:55:20.580]You know, when you buy a 500,000, $800,000 combine
[00:55:24.060]to harvest corn and beans,
[00:55:26.340]you're pretty much locked into that, right?
[00:55:28.050]For a while, the whole system kind of locks you
[00:55:29.880]into what you're doing.
[00:55:32.310]And then you know, but the importance of those
[00:55:34.110]and other structural factors,
[00:55:35.340]I just can't overstate it enough.
[00:55:37.350]We just desperately need policies and programs
[00:55:39.750]to incentivize more soil and water conservation practices,
[00:55:42.720]more diversification, and much more about, you know,
[00:55:46.200]agro, bringing agroecological principles back into both the,
[00:55:49.620]you know, the ecological parts of agriculture.
[00:55:51.660]But we also, and that can agroecology
[00:55:54.150]writ large, defined large,
[00:55:56.100]that also brings into, you know,
[00:55:57.780]social justice issues and food sovereignty issues
[00:56:00.960]and other things that we've been
[00:56:02.460]talking about for these last few days, okay.
[00:56:05.880]So with that, I'd just like to acknowledge the team
[00:56:08.430]that we we're Team Ag BMP led by Linda Prokopy at Purdue,
[00:56:13.020]and then I'm on the Kristin Floress, Ben Gramig,
[00:56:15.300]Sarah Church, Francis Eanes, Yuling Gao, Junyu Lu,
[00:56:18.810]Linda Prokopy, Pranay Rajan, and Ajay Singh,
[00:56:21.780]a really great team that worked on both
[00:56:23.841]the meta-analysis, the quantitative
[00:56:25.890]and the qualitative research.
[00:56:27.720]And that's also funded by NC1190 multi-state project
[00:56:32.640]from USDA-NIFA and a whole bunch of different universities.
[00:56:36.300]And then there's references on this.
[00:56:37.530]I'm happy to share my presentation with anybody
[00:56:40.320]that's interested in on those references.
[00:56:42.510]With that, I'll just say thank you,
[00:56:44.010]and thank you.
We have 10 minutes.
[00:56:53.150]Take a look.
[00:56:53.983]I have a question.
[00:56:56.177]So I think that you are
[00:56:57.010]just speaking to me.
I have a farm with a...
[00:57:02.460]I, we don't rent.
[00:57:04.560]We have a share crop deal.
[00:57:06.270]I guess it's kind of renting.
[00:57:08.100]And I approached my farmer about cover crops and he said,
[00:57:12.959]oh, you just can't plant over those cover crops.
[00:57:16.680]It's just not possible.
[00:57:17.610]We just can't do it.
[00:57:19.500]I think other people are doing this.
[00:57:21.150]So my question to you is, where can I go to get
[00:57:25.950]the material that will persuade him?
[00:57:29.910]Let's just get the persuasion.
Where can I go for that?
[00:57:33.480]That is such a great question.
[00:57:34.500]And there's, I feel like I know
[00:57:36.840]there's a huge appetite among landowners,
[00:57:40.140]particularly as we as a society start,
[00:57:43.170]have been thinking more about food systems
[00:57:44.790]and the impact of you know, food systems
[00:57:46.980]and different kinds of food systems
[00:57:48.750]on our planet and on our people.
[00:57:50.880]There's landowners that are asking questions just like you.
[00:57:52.890]How can I make sure that the land I own is
[00:57:55.950]being farmed sustainably by my operator?
[00:57:58.860]And so many people have that same story as you do,
[00:58:02.670]but there's a lot of groups that are working.
[00:58:04.140]So Gabrielle Resh McNally at American Farmland Trust,
[00:58:08.783]who's classmate of Andrea's--
[00:58:12.293]Oh, sorry, yeah, yeah.
[00:58:15.778]Gabrielle, so American, I'll just say
[00:58:17.010]American Farmland Trust and the Women for the Land Program
[00:58:22.621]is a really good resource,
[00:58:24.450]and they've got all kinds of like,
[00:58:26.160]fact sheets and how to talk to your operator,
[00:58:29.400]kinds of practical things.
[00:58:32.040]Of course, you can try to figure out
[00:58:34.560]like a more draconian approach
[00:58:36.720]and do like an auction and, you know,
[00:58:39.930]bring all the operators in and say,
[00:58:42.750]this is what I want my land to look like,
[00:58:45.270]who's gonna give it to me?
[00:58:46.830]So it's a possibility.
[00:58:48.572]So, but anyway, there's some really good tools.
[00:58:51.209]American Farmland Trust, let's see, WFAN,
[00:58:53.520]Women, Food and Agriculture Network is another good one.
[00:58:56.760]They're based in Iowa.
[00:58:59.610]But there's not enough.
[00:59:01.427]But there are, those are,
[00:59:02.665]that's a really great place to start,
[00:59:03.930]and thank you for that question
[00:59:04.763]because I believe that there's a huge kind
[00:59:06.630]of latent appetite among landowners for,
[00:59:09.153]to make sure that their land is farmed better.
[00:59:13.080]And I think a lot of landlords
[00:59:14.460]just don't even think about it.
[00:59:15.480]You know, they're just not that they're getting
[00:59:18.300]the check and they're not thinking about it.
[00:59:19.380]But if they became aware that I think that they would
[00:59:23.100]start asking me those questions of their tenants.
[00:59:26.430]Hey, I come from the world of ranching.
[00:59:28.620]So I hope this question translates.
[00:59:31.800]We're running into a lot of this in ranching,
[00:59:33.237]and we're finding that one
[00:59:34.560]of the big hurdles is debt related.
[00:59:37.050]And it's a place where we're also seeing a lot
[00:59:39.030]of interest in education from lenders,
[00:59:41.910]whether they're on the land lending side,
[00:59:43.980]whether they're operating loan side,
[00:59:45.570]to understand how changed practices would
[00:59:48.720]make their loan less risky for them later.
[00:59:53.400]I noticed there were a lot of different economic factors,
[00:59:55.680]but there wasn't a lot about debt.
[00:59:57.000]And so I'm wondering where debt fits into this
[00:59:58.830]on the farming side, and if you see that since it is
[01:00:01.500]a private market opportunity, maybe being an opportunity
[01:00:04.350]to push everything else along?
[01:00:05.970]Yeah, that's a great question.
[01:00:07.350]So I don't know, well, I mean, debt insofar is
[01:00:10.470]it kind of increases the precariousness of a farmer's
[01:00:13.860]position would like feed into that risk perception.
[01:00:16.290]But I think what you mentioned about the lenders,
[01:00:19.200]one of the things that, that we've talked about,
[01:00:21.477]but I don't think we've done a very good job of,
[01:00:23.280]is working with those lenders to help them understand that,
[01:00:26.467]you know, the long-term impacts of, you know,
[01:00:29.700]intensive rotational grazing is going to increase
[01:00:33.450]the soil health that over time is gonna
[01:00:35.880]increase the caring capacity of that land,
[01:00:38.310]which is going to increase the herd health and so on.
[01:00:42.120]And so, like if you're talking about, you know, 15, 10, 15,
[01:00:45.540]it takes time to build up the health of the soil.
[01:00:48.660]But over the long term, it's the same with cover crops.
[01:00:51.570]If you're building up the productive capacity
[01:00:53.630]of the resilience of a land, then it's a better,
[01:00:56.580]you know, investment for them.
[01:00:58.020]So I feel like that is an area where we should
[01:01:00.540]work more is like helping the bankers
[01:01:02.865]to understand the value of these.
[01:01:04.890]'Cause then maybe they'll say, hey,
[01:01:06.450]are you doing intensive rotational grazing so you can,
[01:01:09.120]you know, have a better forage crop over over time?
[01:01:13.140]And that could make a lot of difference,
[01:01:14.700]but we're not doing it as much as we should,
[01:01:16.620]so that's great.
[01:01:20.700]I was gonna draw a parallel between,
[01:01:24.000]you made me think a lot during your talk.
[01:01:26.793]And so one of the thoughts that I never really thought
[01:01:30.360]before in terms of this adopting conservation practices draw
[01:01:34.320]parallel with evolutionary biology and this two competing is
[01:01:39.450]evolution of slow process or the punctuating equilibrium
[01:01:44.070]where like you get to conditions
[01:01:45.540]and all of a sudden stuff changes.
[01:01:47.612]And I was thinking about, you know,
[01:01:49.110]we tried to get people to do no-till for so long
[01:01:51.450]and then all of a sudden roundup ready crops come along
[01:01:54.870]and everybody owns a no-till planter
[01:01:57.300]and the landscape just went to no-till farming and the like.
[01:02:01.080]And then on the flip side, when ethanol prices raised up
[01:02:05.160]in the early two thousands, 2007, 2008,
[01:02:09.007]a lot of people pitched out
[01:02:10.470]of the conservation reserve program.
[01:02:12.390]And that was kind of another threshold moment.
[01:02:14.670]So is it, and you kind of threw out
[01:02:18.600]some little things there that like,
[01:02:20.220]we're not doing a great job describing or predicting
[01:02:23.490]people's adoption and that some of these
[01:02:28.590]policy big things, but is there a possibility that
[01:02:33.660]the model needs to account for these
[01:02:35.610]kind of threshold moments that come along?
[01:02:38.400]And like that diffusion model seems to be like a slow model?
[01:02:42.300]Is there, are thresholds important?
[01:02:45.293]That's a really great question.
[01:02:46.320]So Malcolm Gladwell, of course,
[01:02:48.150]you're probably mostly familiar with the "Tipping Point."
[01:02:50.370]And so his book, the "Tipping Point,"
[01:02:52.320]his kind of dialogues with the diffusion of the innovation
[01:02:55.110]model, that there's, you know,
[01:02:56.340]kind of a societal tipping point where people just like,
[01:02:58.770]enough people are doing it that they're like, oh, okay,
[01:03:00.840]now it's socially acceptable or it's the social norm,
[01:03:03.690]so we're all gonna do it.
[01:03:06.083]I feel like we should be thinking about that.
[01:03:08.883]And, but there's, I mean I say,
[01:03:12.270]and a lot of people say, let's start with, you know,
[01:03:14.880]some of the structures that in place like crop insurance.
[01:03:17.490]Crop insurance is what's floating the system, right?
[01:03:20.040]Because we're subsidizing it to the tune of 60
[01:03:22.680]some cents on the dollar.
[01:03:24.444]Everybody, all farmers, all crop farmers are buying it
[01:03:28.380]because they can guarantee a level of revenue
[01:03:32.201]at a discounted price because the rest
[01:03:34.860]of us are picking up the bill.
[01:03:36.540]So why not tie that to some kind of ecological outcomes
[01:03:41.550]or some sort of, you know, long term goals?
[01:03:44.610]I mean, not overly restrictive,
[01:03:46.140]but maybe some long term a agroecological goals
[01:03:49.080]because that, you know, that's the lifeline of farmers.
[01:03:53.670]So that for me, that's like an easy choice,
[01:03:57.750]but it's also like a really important part
[01:04:01.309]of the status quo rigidity trap, right?
[01:04:04.110]So, but that, that could be an easy thing.
[01:04:06.840]But I say easy, that could be an effective thing,
[01:04:10.290]a very difficult thing to achieve,
[01:04:11.910]but a very effective way of doing things.
[01:04:14.530]So I guess opportunities like that.
[01:04:15.930]But yeah, that's a really great question.
[01:04:19.140]But I guess we're so far away from any tipping points
[01:04:22.950]in terms of kind of the agroecological, you know,
[01:04:25.710]meaningful soil and water conservation,
[01:04:27.750]that's hard to see.
[01:04:28.770]But it's a good way to think about it.
[01:04:37.320]Professor Arbuckle, thank you very much
[01:04:39.030]for such a great presentation.
[01:04:41.070]As I drive from our beloved Nebraska to Iowa,
[01:04:43.909]I'm overwhelmed by the number of turbines.
[01:04:47.250]What's the story?
[01:04:48.300]How did you get so many, and why does Nebraska have so few?
[01:04:51.911]And secondly, what's the cost of a turbine now,
[01:04:56.731]and how do we get funding so we can
[01:04:59.400]get more turbines on our Nebraska farms?
[01:05:02.400]Gosh, that's a great question.
[01:05:03.930]It's a little bit outta my wheelhouse, but I'll do my best.
[01:05:06.720]So I, mean I know for a fact that the reason
[01:05:11.100]we have so many is because of policy.
[01:05:14.070]I mean, Iowa welcomes them.
[01:05:16.560]So Iowa has, I don't know exactly,
[01:05:18.060]I can't remember the the name of the policy,
[01:05:20.812]but they have policy that encouraged the, you know,
[01:05:23.277]the bringing wind turbines in.
[01:05:25.440]We're kind of having some backlash recently.
[01:05:27.240]You know, it's become kind of one of those
[01:05:30.270]symbolic things like masks and other things,
[01:05:33.330]anything to smack of, you know,
[01:05:34.920]climate change and environmentalism.
[01:05:37.020]But the reality is that we're now producing
[01:05:39.930]like 45% of our energy from wind turbines
[01:05:43.080]and a lot of farmers are on board with it, right?
[01:05:45.000]They're earning some income.
[01:05:46.620]It's not that hard to farm around them.
[01:05:48.660]They're earning some income.
[01:05:49.830]They cost, last time I looked a million dollars a megawatt.
[01:05:54.727]I think I'm right on that.
[01:05:56.400]I might be off by a million or two (mumbles),
[01:05:58.860]but I think it's a million dollars a megawatt.
[01:06:02.733]Producing energy from wind turbines
[01:06:04.110]and solar is so much more efficient
[01:06:06.870]than producing energy from corn.
[01:06:08.670]So there's estimates that, you know,
[01:06:10.890]solar is between 60 and 200 times more efficient
[01:06:14.730]for producing energy per a kilowatt than,
[01:06:17.077]you know, producing ethanol from corn.
[01:06:19.050]It's a ridiculous proposition for us to be
[01:06:21.605]producing ethanol from the corn.
[01:06:23.730]I hope there's nobody from the corn (mumbles) here,
[01:06:28.380]but then there's backlash and I think that there's this,
[01:06:32.670]there's a lot of misinformation about out there,
[01:06:34.590]about like the noises and the vibrations
[01:06:37.740]and the this, that and the other thing.
[01:06:39.660]But the reality is, I've talked to farmers that, you know,
[01:06:42.150]I interview farmers in the living rooms and they'll be
[01:06:44.310]a wind turbine across the way.
[01:06:46.200]I'm like just out of the,
[01:06:48.090]it's not part of my research project,
[01:06:48.923]but I'll ask them, man, what do you think about it?
[01:06:50.200]Like, it's fine, it's there.
[01:06:51.630]It doesn't bother me and my neighboring farms around it.
[01:06:53.790]It's no big deal.
[01:06:54.623]He's getting some income off it.
[01:06:55.620]So I think they're rather beautiful, frankly.
[01:06:59.228]I mean, I wouldn't want 'em in some places,
[01:07:01.050]but I think they look really nice in Iowa's landscape.
[01:07:03.390]I think they would look lovely driving down I-80,
[01:07:07.020]see wind turbines on this side,
[01:07:09.090]particularly once you get up into the higher,
[01:07:11.640]I mean every time you really get up
[01:07:13.590]on the high plains there, I'm like,
[01:07:15.161]we need some wind turbines here.
[01:07:17.141]A lot of winds, why aren't there turbines?
[01:07:19.050]So, excellent question.
[01:07:22.200]This isn't so much a question as just, anyway,
[01:07:26.790]not so much a question as sort of a comment
[01:07:29.190]on the communication aspect.
[01:07:32.042]Coming from Cattle Ranch.
[01:07:33.480]I'm here today 'cause my husband's working.
[01:07:35.490]There isn't always that time for producers
[01:07:37.800]to make that connection.
[01:07:39.540]As a landowner, I always know what's for sale
[01:07:43.380]because I'm always getting mailers.
[01:07:45.900]Farmers a lot of times will sit twice
[01:07:47.730]a year in the FSA office.
[01:07:49.470]Cattle ranchers don't necessarily so a mailer.
[01:07:53.100]My husband's always gonna see he's not always,
[01:07:55.380]does that make sense?
[01:07:57.477]Like, as a producer they get all like,
[01:07:58.710]it's almost like getting election mailers, right?
[01:08:01.350]They're not always getting thrown away.
[01:08:03.090]Somebody sees them and if you find value in it,
[01:08:07.033]you can ask this or effective assistant isolate anything.
[01:08:09.660]I think he needs to see dinner table so that
[01:08:12.544]when he finally does get a chance to sit down,
[01:08:15.810]sometimes it's not that they don't want to do it.
[01:08:18.090]It's just they don't have that time to make those
[01:08:20.940]connections or sit in those offices
[01:08:22.950]or even do that paperwork.
[01:08:24.660]Yeah, that's a great point.
[01:08:25.737]And actually my colleague Linda Prokopy at Purdue
[01:08:29.084]has been working with the Nature Conservancy doing some
[01:08:30.540]experimentation in terms of like mailers and different kinds
[01:08:34.096]of messaging on those mailers.
[01:08:34.929]And they have found it to be, you know,
[01:08:37.020]fairly effective because you're right, like I say,
[01:08:40.259]the non-choir farmers that don't go to these, you know,
[01:08:42.300]don't go to the field days and that sort of thing.
[01:08:44.610]It may be because they're, you know, farming
[01:08:46.950]and they've got an off-farm job and they've got kids
[01:08:49.440]at home and there's just, they're busy, right?
[01:08:51.300]So how can we meet them where they're at?
[01:08:53.250]That's a really, really great point.
[01:08:55.140]And mailers, you know, I think, it's a possibility.
[01:08:58.950]I will tell you a quick story that ties into
[01:09:00.960]the non-operator landowner, the landlord thing.
[01:09:03.060]So the Nature Conservancy sent out a mailer,
[01:09:06.210]two non operator landowners to inform them about,
[01:09:09.874]you know, how can you have a conversation
[01:09:10.710]with your tenant about soil health?
[01:09:13.140]And some tenants got ahold of these and there's this like
[01:09:15.750]extremely large blow up on like in the Farm Magazine.
[01:09:20.022]You know, farm magazines have these
[01:09:21.540]comment sections in forums.
[01:09:23.370]And so you have these forums like, did you get this?
[01:09:25.470]And what did they do?
[01:09:26.303]They're trying to poison our landlords
[01:09:27.630]against us and you know, filling their heads with all these
[01:09:31.200]ideas about cover crops and that sort of thing.
[01:09:34.290]I thought that was really, that was really fun.
[01:09:38.945]But also, so, but I hear, but it got a reaction, right?
[01:09:41.190]But they got those mailers
[01:09:42.420]and they're like hey, let me think.
[01:09:44.970]So maybe, maybe, yeah.
[01:09:46.770]Anyway, I think it's a great idea.
[01:09:49.650]I'm afraid we're out of time, so.
[01:09:51.717]Oh, all right, well thank you so much for having me again.
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