An assessment of influences on organic agricultural producers' attitudes, behaviors, and decisions related to sustainable best management practices
Kurnick, Rebecca Anita
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A definition for sustainable agriculture that spans competing agriculturalists' philosophies is ambiguous. Organic agriculture is a transformative approach that balances the goals of sustainable agriculture. Understanding how producers identify themselves may give insight as to what drives their decision to explore innovative practices. The purpose of this study was to assess influences on organic agricultural producers' attitudes, behaviors, and decisions related to sustainable best management practices. The objectives of this research were to: 1.) Describe organic agricultural producers' attitudes surrounding sustainable best management practices, 2.) Describe organic agricultural producers' behaviors surrounding sustainable best management practices, and 3.) Describe other influential factors on organic agricultural producers' decisions to adopt sustainable best management practices. Rogers' Diffusions of Innovations and the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) were used to analyze organic producers' attitudes, behaviors, and decisions related to sustainable best management practices (BMP). This descriptive study utilized a survey research design of producer members of the Montana Organic Association. Data analysis was conducted utilizing Confirmatory Factor Analysis to assess the relationships between questions and constructs of the TPB. The strongest pairwise relationships indicated that respondents with a positive attitude to implement sustainable practices likely intend to implement them, and that respondents with a high intention to implement BMP likely will participate in the behavior. Respondents considered themselves risk takers, leaders, and deliberators who use an integrated whole farm approach. Influences of peers and social groups had a significant effect on producers' decisions to implement sustainable BMPs. Results suggest these theories are valuable to study agricultural producers' decisions. Future research should include a much larger population of organic and conventional agricultural producers to allow for the model to draw conclusions about broader populations. Sustainability can be a divisive topic. Future work utilizing the theories should include researching agriculturalists from all backgrounds on their feelings about non-production specific agricultural concepts and terminology. There is unlimited potential for uniting divided groups to solve common problems related to environmental resources, policy, and markets. Future research should include a larger sample of organic and conventional producers to draw conclusions about broader populations.