Understanding the relationship between land tenure and conservation behavior: Recommendations for social science research
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Land Use Policy
The long-term viability of United States (US) agriculture and food systems is contingent upon sustainable soil and water conservation. Currently, the majority of conservation practices rely on voluntary adoption by farmers. However, a large and growing proportion of farmland is rented, thereby presenting a conservation decisionmaking context where tenant farmers have less control over conservation behavior than farmers who own the land they operate. For decades, social science scholarship has examined whether and how land tenure affects farmers’ conservation behavior. The overall effect of tenure on conservation behavior has been found to be inconclusive in quantitative studies, whereas qualitative studies suggest that it hinders conservation behavior. This article draws upon reviews of quantitative and qualitative studies examining conservation adoption in the US between 1982 and 2017 to highlight gaps in and opportunities for understanding the relationship between land tenure and conservation behavior. Highlighting the multidimensional nature of land tenure, we propose that future research on conservation adoption in agriculture use the following eight dimensions: within-farm tenure heterogeneity, tenure stability, market dynamics, type of lease arrangements, lease negotiation timelines, relational aspects, non-operating landowner characteristics, and operator characteristics. We invite scholars to operationalize and measure these dimensions to evaluate their effects on conservation behavior on rented farmland.
KeywordsAgriculture; Best management practices; Conservation; Farmers; Non-operating landowners; Rented farmland
Ranjan, Pranay; Arbuckle, J. Gordon; Church, Sarah P.; Eanes, Francis R.; Floress, Kristin; Gao, Yuling; Gramig, Benjamin M.; Singh, Ajay S.; Prokopy, Linda S. 2022. Understanding the relationship between land tenure and conservation behavior: Recommendations for social science research. Land Use Policy. 106161. 6 p. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2022.106161.