Factors Influencing the Adoption of Water Quality Best Management Practices by Texas Beef Cattle Producers



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The management of agricultural nonpoint source pollution is complex due to the diffuse nature of the various sources. As a result, rather than relying on direct regulation, natural resource agencies generally utilize a watershed approach to encourage the voluntary adoption of best management practices (BMPs) to improve water quality and control nonpoint source pollution originating from livestock, farm, and forestry operations as well as urban nonpoint sources. Policy tools used to encourage voluntary adoption include educational programming as well as technical and financial assistance opportunities. Despite the known water quality benefits of BMPs and the availability of policy tools to encourage adoption, some landowners and livestock producers choose not to adopt conservation practices.

This study examined the current adoption behavior of Texas beef cattle producers and investigated how factors related to capacity, attitudes, environmental awareness, and farm characteristics influenced the adoption of BMPs known to reduce levels of bacteria, sediment, nutrients, and other contaminants in runoff. A statewide mail survey of beef cattle producers was conducted in the Fall of 2013. Univariate probit analysis was used to estimate the influence of 30 predictor variables on the probability of a beef cattle producer adopting 18 different water quality BMPs.

Results from the analysis show producers are adopting and maintaining water quality BMPs despite a significant lack of knowledge concerning common water quality terms and the availability of financial assistance programs to aid in practice implementation. The most significant predictors of adoption among survey respondents included visits with Extension, prior participation in a government cost-share program, crop diversity, annual income, and percent income from the operation. The most significant factors reducing the probability of adoption among survey respondents included education, gender, visits with NRCS, membership in a livestock organization, and having a family member take over the operation. These results suggest the need to address information gaps among beef cattle producers as well as demonstrate a significant opportunity for the NRCS and Extension to forge a strategic long-term partnership to promote increased and sustained adoption of water quality BMPs.