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Differences between farmer and government official views of best management practices : cracks or canyons? Semmelink, Adrian Luke

Abstract

Introduction: The extensive environmental impacts associated with agriculture can be mitigated by farmers changing their management practices. Adoption of these types of practices, known as best management practices (BMP), are often slow and sporadic. Much work has rightly focused on understanding how farmers perceive BMPs. However, little is known about the consilience of farmer and government official views regarding BMPs. If the gaps between government officials’ and farmers’ views are too large, programs may be designed that theoretically help farmers increase BMP adoption but fail to deliver in practice. Methods: Drawing from surveys of farmers (n = 166) and government officials (n = 30) in the British Columbian agriculture sector, we explore variation in preferences for BMPs, perceived barriers to BMP adoption, and interventions perceived as most effective at increasing BMP adoption. We end by examining how these differences in perspectives are reflected in a government funded cost-share program aimed at increasing the adoption of BMPs. Findings: (1) Funding preferences: Farmers prefer biodiversity, emission, and nutrients classes of BMPs compared to government officials. Some of the differences observed between the two groups can be explained by government officials’ higher preference for management plans. (2) Barriers: Government officials scored all 11 barriers higher than farmers, and for 8 of these barriers the difference was statistically significant. (3) Interventions: Farmers and government officials both rated financial incentives for increasing BMP adoption as the three most effective interventions among 12. (4) Government cost-share program: Government officials’ preferences for plans are reflected in the government’s cost-share program that supports BMP adoption. Many BMPs preferred by farmers deliver direct benefits to their operation and the environment, but were funded at lower levels by the program. Discussion: Despite differences between farmers and government officials, a synthesis of our results suggests that the government’s 2017/18 BMP cost-share program is a compromise between government officials’ preference for planning and farmers’ preference for BMPs that deliver direct benefits. Our results also showcase the importance of considering multiple stakeholders in BMP adoption by providing the first comparison between farmers’ and government officials’ views on BMP adoption.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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