Professors Paul Ferraro of Georgia State University and Kent Messer of the University of Delaware will head the newly created Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Policy Research (CBEAR), supported with a $750,000 award from the Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
CBEAR-affiliated faculty will use behavioral and experimental economics research to improve the design and implementation of USDA programs that support farmers in their efforts to feed the world and provide valuable environmental stewardship of the nation’s agricultural lands. The three-year USDA seed grant will fund the new center.
“Designing government programs based on theories from the behavioral sciences and evidence from randomized controlled trials has proven successful in other policy fields. It’s time for the same approach to be applied to U.S. agri-environmental policy,” said Ferraro, a professor in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and a globally recognized expert in evidence-based environmental policy. His research advances the application of behavioral economics to policy design.
In 2013, the USDA spent more than $5 billion on conservation programs to minimize soil erosion, enhance water quality and create wildlife habitat.
“Understanding how farmers process information and respond to agri-environmental programs,” Ferraro said, “will allow the USDA to better engage all agricultural producers, improve their satisfaction with USDA programs, increase program effectiveness, and provide additional ecosystem services for every taxpayer dollar spent.”
Along with Georgia State and Delaware, the CBEAR consortium includes Cornell University. The new center will:
Lead and coordinate innovative behavioral research programs related to the design and implementation of policies and programs that provide ecosystem services and lead to greater satisfaction for participating farmers and landowners;
Broaden the network of social scientists who participate in policy-relevant research on agricultural ecosystem services, policies and programs; and
Disseminate information obtained via its research program to a diverse stakeholder audience, including USDA and other federal program agencies, farmers and the public.