in the RCWP and those who did not (Gale et al., 1993). Farm structure, farm operator
characteristics, and water quality awareness and attitudes were assessed.
Participation in RCWP projects was highly correlated with strong economic indicators,
such as comparatively larger total acreage farmed, higher gross farm sales, and greater
property and farm equipment values. Producers who were employed off-farm, or who
received only part of their income from agriculture, were less likely to participate in NPS
pollution control projects than were farmers who worked solely on the farm and earned
most of their income from agriculture.
Water quality awareness and attitudes were also important in determining participation
rates in the RCWP projects. Producers who were more aware of water pollution (in
general, in the specific area, or on individual farms) participated in greater numbers than
farmers who were less well informed. Producers who received most of their water quality
and conservation information from government agencies and farm magazines were more
likely to change agricultural practices that affected water quality than producers who did
not receive information from these sources.
Many of the results of the farm operator survey were similar to conclusions of previous
studies evaluating factors that influence conservation. Farmers who run large-scale
operations, are better educated and more willing to take risks, and have access to
government information generally participate at a higher rate in conservation programs
than producers without these characteristics. Although farm structure and producer
characteristics were important factors in determining which farmers chose to participate
in the RCWP projects, external incentives also affected participation.
Incentives To Producer Participation
Financial incentives are extremely important, and may be the most important factor, in
obtaining voluntary implementation of BMPs. Financial incentives for voluntary
environmental compliance include cost-share funds, tax relief, payment transfers, and
The primary financial incentive in the RCWP projects was federal cost-share funding.
Each producer could receive up to 75% of the cost of each recommended BMP
implemented (up to a maximum per farm of ,000).
The cost-share rate for the Alabama RCWP project was originally set at 60%. Few
farmers chose to participate until the cost-share rate was raised to 75%. Participation then
increased to 100% of the producers in the critical area.
A significant barrier to implementation of BMPs is poor economic status of producers.
The farm operator survey (Gale et al., 1993) found a lower rate of participation among
farmers who had relatively lower economic indicators. During the early 1980s, many