- Education and Training: decision support system, extension
- Sustainable Communities: public participation, public policy
Farmers' voluntary participation in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) can promote adoption of conservation practices which in turn help Pennsylvania meet its 2025 Chesapeake Bay watershed nutrient and sediments reduction goals and improve agriculture productivity. Researchers have highlighted the need to understand the characteristics of EQIP participants. However, few studies have investigated the characteristics of EQIP participants in Pennsylvania. Due to the need to better understand producers’ decision-making process for future policy formulation and effective outreach, the economic and environmental importance of EQIP, and paucity of previous work in Pennsylvania, this project fills an important research gap. This project will use a mixed-methods approach to explore farmers’ participation or non-participation in EQIP, examine program recruitment strategies and approaches used by conservation field staff to secure farmers’ participation in the program, and determine constraints to conducting outreach and recruitment activities. Additionally, it will evaluate the influence of EQIP contract payment on local water quality using secondary data on three key water quality indicators sourced from USDA Water Quality Portal and EQIP contract payment from NRCS respectively. The project will develop evidence-based recommendations that enable conservation staff to work more effectively with farmers to increase their participation in EQIP to sustain conservation gains, promote sustainability and profitability of the agricultural production, and improve environmental quality in the Northeast region. Results will be disseminated to target audiences through oral presentations, publications, webinars, and factsheets made available via project collaborators, conferences related to sustainable agriculture and natural resources conservation, and peer-reviewed journals.
Project objectives from proposal:
Objective 1: Identify motivators and constraints to farmers’ participation or non-participation in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
Objective 2: Examine the different factors that facilitate and or constraints the ability of NRCS and local conservation district field staff to conduct recruitment and outreach activities to secure the participation of farmers in EQIP.
Objective 3: Evaluate the impact of EQIP contract payment for water quality-related practices on local water quality.
Objective 4: Develop evidence-based recommendations for practices and procedures that help conservation field staff effectively work with farmers to promote sustainable agriculture and improve environmental quality.
 Field staff of the local conservation district will be selected to participate in the study because their outreach activities include informing farmers about the different conservation programs available to producers. Hence, for this project, NRCS and local conservation district field staff are referred to as the conservation field staff.