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Assessment of Willingness to Supply Dedicated Energy Crops on Marginal Lands in the Northeastern United States to Improve Water Quality

Presenters: Wei Jiang, PhD student, Penn State University, Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education

According to the Chesapeake Bay Model, planting certain biomass crops (specifically grasses like switchgrass and winter crops like winter rye and winter oilseeds (canola, potentially pennycress)) can provide a reduction in nutrient pollution. First, this research documents the water quality benefits of certain biomass crops and the associated non-market valuation of these water quality benefits. How much would states under increasing pressure to meet water quality standards pay farmers to plant bioenergy crops to realize these water quality benefits? Second, this research is focused on evaluating farmers' willingness to supply bioenergy crops.

A survey is conducted in the three study areas with three model crops: switchgrass, miscanthus and willow. Economic theory is used to evaluate factors influencing decision-makers' choices to plant energy crops. The initial results indicate that landowners who own marginal lands are more likely to plant switchgrass and they require a lower willingness to accept price compared with landowners who do not have marginal lands. At the same time, we noticed that landowners are unfamiliar with these new crops in general. Economic concerns are the top reasons preventing them from planting energy crops.

About the Presenter:

Wei Jiang is a PhD student working with Dr. Kate Zipp. Wei obtained her master degree in University of Florida majored in Forest Resource Economics with a minor in Food and Resources Economics. Her master thesis focuses on analyzing the influence of woody biomass in the international trade of forest products. Her expertise lies in bioenergy economics, land use change and international trade. She has presented at six regional and national meetings. During her PhD study, she assessed farmers willingness to supply bioenergy crops on marginal lands. In this project, she designed questionnaire, conducted survey and subsequently collected and analyzed all the data. This project is part of Wei's dissertation. The results will be presented and used by Penn State Extension to make recommendations to farmers to optimize marginal lands utilization, to diversity investment alternatives and to improve the awareness of bioenergy crops.

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