Drought & conservation: exploring the relationship between drought and grazing land conservation program enrollment

Hensen, Reid, author
Mooney, Daniel, advisor
Hill, Alexandra, advisor
Fernandez-Gimenez , Maria, committee member
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Financial loss from drought can have devastating impacts on the livelihoods of land and livestock managers. Conservation practices are one of the drought adaptation strategies for mitigating the damage of drought and are particularly useful for long-term adaptation. Using the largest known database of grazing conservation practice implementation, this study analyzes the effect of drought conditions on enrollment into the USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) at the national scale. Specifically, we explore the impacts of drought on the number of EQIP grazing practices implemented in a given county from 2009-2018. We exploit exogenous variation in drought exposure at the county level to estimate the effect of drought conditions on grazing practice implementation. We find that severe drought increases drought-related conservation practice implementation for up to two years. Additionally, we find that following a severe drought, there is a meaningful increase in practices related to long-term drought adaptation such as ponds, livestock pipelines, and range planting. When analyzed by agricultural region, our findings suggest that each region uniquely uses conservation practices to respond to drought. We complement our national econometric model with a brief analysis of a 2013 survey of Colorado and Wyoming ranchers. We use results from the survey to examine management and drought adaptation differences in producers who had enrolled in EQIP and those who had not. We find that ranches enrolled in EQIP are more likely to add alternative on-farm enterprises and incorporate pasture rest into their grazing system as part of their drought adaptation strategy. Results from both data sources work in concert to provide insight into the relationship between drought, EQIP, and livestock management.
2021 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.
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