GLRPPR Sector Resource: The Perennial Question 2012: Farmers’ Choices and the Biofuel Future
The Perennial Question 2012: Farmers’ Choices and the Biofuel Future
The U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) is a strategic response to concerns under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 about petroleum fuel supplies and environmental sustainability (EPA 2012). RFS2 regulations mandate specific amounts of renewable fuels to be blended into gasoline and diesel.
Analyses of the shifts in land use, crop management, and crop marketing implied by RFS2 typically either neglect or simplify farmers' choices, whether due to the investigative questions asked, the modeling frameworks used, or the suppositions made in those analyses. Much remains unexplored and, therefore, unknown about the bases for farmers' actual decisions to dedicate their land, labor, and resources to the production of perennials.
This report aims to start narrowing the gap between science and practice by exploring the bases for a subset of farmers' choices, specifically those surrounding decisions to engage in perennial planting, management and marketing. We do not assume the processes that farmers' use to make decisions mimic the calculus of scientific optimization. Rather, we suggest farmers' behavior patterns, decision-making processes, and decision contexts are important variables that are worthy of investigation and of incorporating into to the scientific and policy-analysis mix. Information about farmers' choices can provide new depth to scientific analyses that are driven by such policies as RFS2. Perhaps most importantly, a better understanding of the bases for farmers' choices can provide information important for analyzing and developing a full range of effective policies and interventions.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
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