Farmer Participation in Solving the
Nonpoint Source Pollution Problem
The Rural Clean Water Program Experience
The Importance of Producer Participation in Voluntary
Agricultural Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Projects
The success or failure of any agricultural nonpoint source pollution control project
depends on the participation of many landowners or farm operators. These producers
must install or utilize land-based treatments, or best management practices (BMPs), that
minimize the movement of agricultural pollutants such as sediment, nutrients, and
pesticides to water resources.
The degree of producer participation necessary to protect or remediate water quality will
depend not only on the total number of land users employing BMPs in the watershed, but
also on several other factors: the location of the producers' farms in the watershed, the
types of BMPs selected, the extent of BMP implementation, and the type and severity of
the water quality problem.
The first phase in a nonpoint source (NPS) pollution control project is to accurately
identify and clearly document the water quality problem, the specific pollutant(s), and the
sources of the pollutant(s). Based on the water quality problem assessment, the critical
area (land area or areas contributing disproportionately to the water quality problem)
should be identified. High-priority project participants are those producers who farm or
raise livestock in the critical area of the watershed.
A primary goal of any voluntary NPS pollution control project is to engage a sufficient
number of potential participants in the project. The Rural Clean Water Program (RCWP),
a nationally recognized nonpoint source pollution control program conducted between
1981 and 1995, established a target voluntary producer participation rate of 75%. Many
valuable lessons were learned from the RCWP about how to recruit and retain
participants in voluntary NPS pollution control projects. The information presented in
this fact sheet is based on these lessons learned.
Farm Structure and Producer Attitudes and Attributes
that Affect Project Outcome
An extensive telephone survey of producers farming in the critical areas of the 21 RCWP
projects was conducted to evaluate differences between farmers who chose to participate