Project – 2 – Explaining Agri-Environmental Stewardship Adoption in Canada: A State of Knowledge Review

Location: University of Guelph
Research Team: Dr. Ben Bradshaw and Dr. Wanhong Yang and Elizabeth Holmes
Duration: December 2009 – July 2010

Brief Project Description/Overview:

Given the public good nature of most agri-environmental stewardship, its adoption in Canada continues to be a pressing policy issue. In support of this need, considerable research has been completed over the years to better understand the financial and other factors that explain the farm-level adoption of practices such as conservation tillage (e.g. Smit and Smithers, 1992). Consistent with Knowler and Bradshaw (2007), before advocating for any new empirical exercise to identify possible correlations between the adoption of certain practices and independent variables such as age, land tenure or education level among a sample of farmers in some Canadian locale, we argue that it is necessary to take stock of existing knowledge in the Canadian context in order to:

  • identify common explanations of behavior across existing studies (e.g. Smit and Smithers, 1992);
  • identify the role and impact of various conventional policy interventions such as subsidies and extension services (e.g. Stonehouse and Bohl, 1993); and
  • contextualize more novel policy approaches to agri-environmental stewardship adoption such as (spatial) targeting (e.g. Yang and Weersink, 2007), environmental farm planning (e.g. Smithers and Furman, 2003), and the development of markets for farm-based ecological goods and services (e.g. Engel et al., 2008)

A ‘State of Knowledge Review’ is currently underway focused on existing research (1980-2009) that explains, from a social scientific perspective, agri-environmental stewardship adoption in Canada. Initial findings suggest that financial variables alone cannot explain agri-environmental stewardship, which lends support to unconventional mechanisms for stewardship promotion.