Agricultural Nutrient Management in the Neuse River Basin: Exploring the Links Between Mandates, Motivations, and Behavior Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Wittenborn, Alyssa
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of City and Regional Planning
  • Water pollution from agricultural nutrient runoff is a significant environmental problem inadequately addressed by existing voluntary programs. Other types of policy instruments have proven difficult to implement due to challenges in monitoring diffuse pollution. Combining different instruments may be effective, but has not been assessed sufficiently. This project evaluates a hybrid policy targeting nitrogen runoff in the Neuse River Basin in North Carolina. The Neuse strategy mandates participation in nutrient management training or development of nutrient management plans, but leaves adoption of best management practices voluntary. Data from a telephone survey of 315 producers in the Neuse Basin and a control group of 100 producers in the adjacent Tar-Pamlico Basin, where training had not been offered, are used to test the impacts of training and planning on adoption of realistic yield expectations (RYEs), cover crops, and soil tests. The roles of capacity, adoption motivations, perceived control, and rule awareness are also evaluated. The study finds that nutrient management training and planning impact adoption of the three practices. Both activities increase use of RYEs and planning increases use of soil tests. Results for cover crops are complex. Training increases adoption, but the relationship is mediated by rule awareness, which has a negative effect and reduces the impact of training. The study finds that a fear of stricter future regulations also negatively impacts adoption of cover crops. These results indicate that the coercive elements of the Neuse strategy are backfiring for this practice. The study also does not find the Neuse strategy to overcome key problems of voluntary and coercive policy instruments. High rates of noncompliance with the mandates are identified. Additionally, producers who exceed rule requirements show signs of resentment in their reported attitudes, which could undermine future participation. The results suggest that hybrid policies have promise in the context of agricultural pollution control, but must be designed to reduce incentives for strategic avoidance. They also must consider the different types of individuals in the target population and work to strike an appropriate balance between enforcing requirements for those who will not act voluntarily and reducing resentment among those who will.
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  • ... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of City and Regional Planning.
  • Moreau, David H.

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