A Spatial Analysis of Conservation Reserve Program Participants: The Impact of Absenteeism on Participation Decisions
Given that approximately half of all U.S. farmland is leased, absentee (non-operator) landowners have a significant role in agriculture. Because decisions about how to use farmland can be affected by ownership status, tenure can have far reaching implications for the production of food and fiber, as well as the extent to which environmentally sensitive farmland is cropped or is put into a conservation use. In order to better understand whether conservation participation decisions, and potential responses to factors such as commodity prices, may vary by tenure status, we exploit a unique dataset that identifies where participants associated with Conservation Reserve Program contracts live relative to the land enrolled. These data provide improved spatial information on tenure status relative to previous sources. This study seeks to improve our understanding of the extent and characteristics of absentee landowners in CRP. These findings can help improve policy by recognizing how the heterogeneity across landowners may lead participants to respond differently to changes in market or policy incentives.
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