Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A Quantitative Policy Evaluation of The Renewable Fuel Standard and Agricultural Land Use Changes in Three Mid-Western States: Analyzing Variables that Influence Significant Changes in Crop Decisions
by Russell, Krista, M.S., Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, 2020, 113; 28088700
Abstract (Summary)

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is the statutory law that can be credited with development of the ethanol and biofuels industry. The RFS established a biofuel volumetric requirement that must be incorporated in the American Fuel supply each year. The volumetric requirements were originally set in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and later expanded on in the Energy Independent and Security Act of 2007. Within the statutory law, biofuel volumes were set to increase each year to increase biofuel usage. The policy has been successful in developing the biofuels industry, but this has also created a divide between biofuel advocates and opponents on issues such as environmental impacts and food prices. Most recently opponents to the RFS have been claiming that the RFS has resulted in “intensified corn production” and increased agricultural land use change. The claims of the RFS causing agricultural land use change and expanded agriculture production land put direct responsibility on the RFS for these changes, without considering if other driving variables could be involved. This study addresses the claims of agricultural land use change cause by the RFS by determining multiple variables, beyond the RFS, that can be having an impact on these land changes.

Agricultural land use changes for acres planted in corn and soybeans in the top three corn producing states of Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska, were studied. The analysis was conducted on a county level. Three independent variables were determined and tested within a time series ANOVA with an unstructured variance-covariance structure to determine the association between these variables to determine which variables are causing most of the agriculture land use changes. The variable categories include: 1) weather, including crop development and precipitation during planting and harvest. 2) commodity prices at the time of planting; 3) acreage enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP); The study includes both a macroanalysis and a microanalysis component. The macroanalysis is focused on all counties within the three states, where the microanalysis looks at the top ten counties in each state with the most agricultural land use change (30 counties total) in order to confirm the relationships in the macroanalysis. 4 models are ran to determine the association between the independent variables and agricultural land use change.: 1) macroanalysis for corn acreage; 2) macroanalysis for soybean acreage; 3) microanalysis for corn acreage; 4) microanalysis for soybean acreage.

This analysis supported that the RFS cannot be solely responsible for agricultural land use change and that the cause of agricultural land use changes is complex. Most notably, excessive planting season precipitation and commodity prices had the greatest influence. The CRP had an influence on soybean acreage, but no influence for corn. The associations found within this work provide valuable insight into what is driving a farmer’s agriculture cropping decisions. The success of the RFS should not be associated with being the cause of agricultural land use change, as the RFS is simply a small component of a more complex system.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Guehlstorf, Nicholas P.
Commitee: Pearson, Randall S., Butts-Wilmsmeyer, Carolyn J.
School: Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville
Department: Environmental Sciences
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: MAI 82/3(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Environmental science, Agriculture
Keywords: Agricultural land use change, Ethanol, Quanitative policy evaluation, Renewable fuel standard
Publication Number: 28088700
ISBN: 9798672112886
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