Beef Producer Demand for Grazing Public Land: Opportunities and Constraints

Project Overview

GNC15-209
Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2015: $9,997.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2017
Grant Recipient: University of Wisconsin
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:

Commodities

  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: meat

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage, feed management, grazing management, grazing - rotational, rangeland/pasture management
  • Sustainable Communities: partnerships

    Abstract:

    The successful development of a rotational grazing program on public grasslands in Wisconsin will depend in part on the willingness of beef producers to rent public land. This project uses contingent valuation (CV) survey data and a focus group to identify (1) what beef producers are excited and concerned about regarding pasture rental broadly, and public lands, specifically; (2) desirable contract terms from the producer perspective, how producers feel about renting public land, and the types of producers who would be willing to rent public land; (3) knowledge of where interested producers are generally located; and (4) characteristics of interested producers. We found moderate producer interest in renting land for rotational grazing, with 15 to 25% responding affirmatively. As expected, grass-dominant pasture was the more popular of the two pasture types. For that rental opportunity, we expect younger producers with larger farms and less diverse operations to be interested. Similarly, for shrub-dominated pasture rentals, we expect that producers with relatively less pasture to be more interested in participating. However, median willingness to pay estimates on a per-acres basis were positive for producers currently practicing rotational grazing and with land rental experience, but slightly below current rental rates for private pastureland. The establishment of a public land grazing program may therefore offer benefits for these producers. Future research should concentrate on “hot spots” or mapping the overlap between producer interest in a public grazing program and the locations of viable public land.

    Introduction:

    Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) land managers face resource constraints that challenge them to meet conservation land management goals. Increasing rates of woody species encroachment interfere with conservation of the state’s grasslands; threatening rare grassland species, upland game species that utilize grasslands, and other ecosystem services of value to the public. Additionally, beef producers cite land access as an important constraint to their operations, especially for beginning farmers. Research has shown managed, rotational grazing to have positive ecological benefits on grasslands such as control of nonnative grasses and annual vegetation, and improved biodiversity and soil infiltration rates. Grazing public grasslands offers a win-win opportunity for beef producers and WDNR land managers, but is a relatively untested model in Wisconsin.

    This project contributed to a larger, USDA Hatch-funded research project focusing on the opportunities and challenges to grazing public land in Wisconsin. The larger project investigates the agronomic and biological impacts of grazing on the landscape, as well as how best to facilitate public-private partnerships between graziers and public land managers. This SARE project focused on the producer perspective of the opportunities and challenges to grazing public land in Wisconsin.

    Through a contingent valuation (CV) survey, focus groups, and education and outreach, this project derived and shared information on beef livestock producer demand for renting pastureland. Additionally, this project provided data in the following areas: (1) What beef producers are excited and concerned about regarding pasture rental broadly, as well as concerns specific to public land; (2) desirable contract terms from the producer perspective, how producers feel about renting public land, and the types of producers who would be willing to rent public land; (3) knowledge of where interested producers are generally located; and (4) characteristics of interested producers.

    This information will allow land managers to better design grazing programs based on producer needs and constraints. Grazing brokers, grazing associations, and other interested parties are able to use the information to facilitate partnerships between beef graziers and public land managers. In the long-term, information collected during this project may contribute to eventual use of grazing as a land management tool on public land.

    Project objectives:

    There were four learning outcomes and two action outcomes intended by the project. The learning outcomes were (1) Beef producers learn what fellow producers are excited and concerned about regarding pasture rental broadly, as well as concerns specific to renting public land. (2) Beef producers and land managers know desirable contract terms from the producer perspective, how producers feel about renting public land, and the types of producers who would be willing to rent public land. (3) This knowledge increases public land manager confidence in grazing as a land management tool while simultaneously increasing producer willingness to engage in such partnership. (4) Another result of the project is knowledge of where interested producers are generally located which will help with the brokering of public-private partnerships.

    With respect to the action outcomes, a short-term outcome was that grazing brokers, grazing associations, and other interested parties facilitate partnerships between graziers and public land managers using the information gathered from the project. A long-term outcome was the use of grazing as a land management tool as a result of changes in practices by both producers and public land managers.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.