AgVISE determining best way to set cost-share rates for farmers’ conservation work

AgVISE determining best way to set cost-share rates for farmers' conservation workImagine if Priceline or eBay took over U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and farmers could set their own prices for conservation efforts. Four hundred farmers had the chance to do just that in 2014 through the University of Delaware’s Agricultural Values, Innovation, and Stewardship Enhancement (AgVISE) project. AgVISE is a research project that gives farmers the opportunity to set their own cost-share amounts for voluntary nutrient management practices rather than the government setting what they should pay. The project was a great success, researchers said, and is being replicated this year with an available payout of $100,000, more than double the original study’s funding. Most Delaware agricultural landowners are invited to participate, and landowners earn at least $50 just by completing a short survey. In most conservation programs, government administrators set the cost-share amounts. The AgVISE project, funded by the USDA, will determine if letting farmers set their own cost-share may be a better way to manage federal conservation payouts. AgVISE participants will learn about possible nutrient management practices they could implement on their farms, including: riparian buffers; phosphorus filters; and poultry house removal. After evaluating the costs, participants name the amount they would be willing to contribute in order to receive complementary funding from the government. For example, one Delaware farmer removed an abandoned poultry house on his property for a fraction of the overall cost by bidding on his potential contribution. The study’s associated survey will gauge the desirability of various land management practices.   Survey responses will help better inform policy makers on farmers’ preferences and ensure future “name-your-price” opportunities include the most popular practices. The AgVISE project runs through March 31. To participate and earn at least $50, Delaware agricultural landowners can call 302-533-8285. Participation in AgVISE is voluntary and landowner responses and personal information will be confidential For more information, contact Kent Messer, professor and Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment in the University of Delaware’s College of Agricultural and Natural Resources, at 302-533-8285. This article can also be viewed on UDaily.