US Cornbelt agroecosystems are the aggregated result of thousands of individual land-use decisions, which influence and are influenced by economic policy. In light of emerging and dynamic drivers of agroecosystem change (e.g., policy reform, environmental dilemmas, increased uncertainty and extreme weather), the resilience of these systems will be dependent upon how farmers respond to these changing conditions. Thus, it is clear that the sustainable vitality of Cornbelt landscapes is as much a social challenge as agronomic. Starting Fall of 2012, a team of 24 Extension Educators in eleven Cornbelt states will be engaging 200 farmers (~20-24 farmers/state) in qualitative in-depth interviews designed to add depth to our understanding of why/how/and when farmers decide to adopt (or not) climate adaptive/mitigative farming practices. This research is the qualitative complement to a quantitative farmer survey, which covered the same eleven states and was segmented among 22 HUC 6 watersheds. These qualitative farmer interviews allow us to explore the nuances of adaptive land-use decisions and farmer beliefs about the socio-ecological resilience of these corn-based landscapes. As part of the research, partial budgeting techniques will be used to assess the potential site-specific financial effects of alternative management or the adoption of various adaptive practices being studied within the larger CSCAP effort (e.g., cover crops, extended rotations, conservation practices, drainage management). Our 200 farmer interviews will be designed to: 1) Discuss the financial assessments to gain a nuanced understanding of farmer perspectives on the financial impacts of adaptive management practices; 2) Gain a deeper understanding of trends discovered in the survey data; and 3) Touch on key issues not covered in the survey– e.g., impact of 2012 drought on attitudes/beliefs about risk, emerging policy (e.g., proposed “shallow loss” insurance). The comprehensive findings of the farmer interviews will be available summer/fall 2013.
Project Documentation: Qualitative Farmer Assessment of Adaptive Management.pdf