Weninger, Jacobs win USDA grant

May 18, 2017

Dr. Quinn Weninger, Dr. Keri JacobsQuinn Weninger, professor, and Keri Jacobs, assistant professor, have been awarded a two-year grant totaling $196,257 from the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Their project, “Subjective Beliefs, Decision Making under Uncertainty and the Design of Nutrient Management Policy in U.S. Agriculture,” uses recently improved methods for measuring farmers’ subjective beliefs about crop yield distributions, and the role of nitrogen on crop yields and farm profitability.

In 2015, Weninger and Jacobs, and graduate student Sandip Agarwal developed and administered a pilot survey with support from the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD). Jacobs believes it is because of those initial efforts that their grant to expand that work was so competitive in this round of funding. The team is excited that the grant will allow them to really develop and enlarge their research. 

“Our first order of business is to improve the survey based on what we learned during the pilot stage, and deploy it to producers,” said Jacobs. “We were fortunate in our initial survey to have the cooperation of producers working with a cooperative in our area, and we hope to work with agribusinesses again, but across a broader area to gain insights from producers.”

“Our goal is to bring behavioral economic concepts to bear on decisions producers make about nutrients and other inputs on their fields in a way that can inform agro-environmental policy. We know producers have a mechanism for deciding, for example, how much nitrogen to apply. But the empirical investigations of that decision to date have not been very satisfying in terms of their ability to explain input use.”

The research aims to set a new direction for designing nitrogen runoff reduction policies for U.S. agriculture.

“There is major interest in agriculture, government, and academia in understanding how policies can be used to move the needle on water quality and erosion,” said Jacobs. “We feel this work has the potential to contribute to that effort in a significant way!”