Author

Semra Ozdemir

Date of Award

12-2003

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Resource Economics and Policy

Advisor

Kevin J. Boyle

Second Committee Member

Mario F. Teisl

Third Committee Member

Kathleen P. Bell

Abstract

Conversion of farmland has recently become an important policy issue in the US. Between 1982 and 1997, over seven million acres of prime farmland was converted to developed land in the US, which is a 3% decrease in total farmland. This is also the case in Maine, where forty thousand acres of prime farmland has been converted to non-farm uses over the same time period. This constitutes about an 8% decrease in total farmland, where farmland is only 6% of the total land in Maine. A decrease in the amount of farmland, along with the increased public support for farmland protection has led to a number of farmland preservation programs. A popular and effective means of preservation of farmland is conservation easement programs. These programs require farmers to voluntarily sell the right to develop their land for commercial and residential purposes. A considerable amount of money has been spent on the acquisition of development rights on farmland, and applications of these easements have been increasing. It is important to investigate if the benefits of these programs outweigh the costs of purchasing easements. Although there is an available market price for the cost of agricultural conservation easements, the value of these programs is not known. This research aims to estimate the value Maine residents place on farmland conservation easement programs, and to identify the types of farmland that has the strongest public support. Conjoint analysis was employed, since it is a useful tool for a study that focuses on investigating values for a heterogeneous good like farmland conservation. Conjoint analysis is a survey-research method that presents a set of alternatives to respondents, which have different levels of component attributes. While conjoint is very useful for the current application, its use in environmental economics is quite new. There are a number of issues and concerns about designing conjoint surveys. The methodological objectives of this study aim to investigate how the effect of the placement of monetary stimulus, the number of alternatives in the choice set and the exclusion of status quo alternative affects the coefficient estimates. The study objectives were accomplished by administering a mail survey to a random sample of 2,000 Maine residents. In order to meet the methodological objectives, four different versions of the survey were created. Vst presents typical conjoint questions, and coefficient estimates from this version was used to test the convergence of estimates from other versions. The estimation results suggest that people are more likely to support a conservation easement program that targets prime farmland near urban areas, with vegetables and with a relatively large protected area. According to the convergent validity test results, the placement of the monetary stimulus and the exclusion of the Status Quo alternative do not affect the coefficient estimates. However, the number of alternatives in the choice set affects the coefficient estimates.

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