Three Essays on the Economics of Agricultural Production Behavior, Renewable Natural Resources, and Welfare Dynamics

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The proportion of the world’s population that directly interacts with agriculture and natural resources for their daily bread is declining amidst structural transformation (Timmer et al. 2009). Commensurately, the expectations and hopes placed on the remaining food and fiber producers in the world seems to ever increase, not only in terms of the provision of food and fiber, but increasingly in terms of environmental management and the conservation of intersecting natural resources (Blundo et al. 2018, Messerli et al. 2019, Wunder et al. 2020, Baylis et al. 2022). It is not a stretch to declare that there is a lot riding on the welfare of the food and fiber producers of the world (e.g., food security), and on the extent to which conditions that enhance the welfare of the farmer (gatherer) also enhance general welfare in matters beyond the direct provision of food and fiber (e.g., climate change, pollution control, and biodiversity conservation). To manage this state of affairs, the economics underpinning the production behavior of food and fiber producers and associated realized outcomes, are paramount to understand theoretically and to test empirically. In what follows, three applications are studied, each with a focus on a renewable natural resource of concern and an intersecting agricultural production sector where little to no empirical work has be done. The settings and questions are each broadly important and timely: * Do food price shocks cause deforestation, and if so how? * How do farmers decide whether to use managed pollination service markets, and are observed use patterns optimal? * Does the provision of index-based agricultural insurance lead to resource degradation, or improvement? Although on one level these topics are unrelated, the reality is that there are similar archetypal economic problems at the root of each of these questions, where the welfare of an agricultural agent, and the impacts from their production behavior, may or may not coincide with a social optimum. In chapter 2, evidence is presented that food price shocks, particularly for staples, can have significant impacts on deforestation (particularly through increases in price levels), that such shocks can drive smallholders to expand production broadly to address internal shocks to consumption and production, and that such land use change patterns can be casually miss-attributed to cash crop markets. In chapter 3, it is demonstrated that pollination dependent farmer's crop pollination behavior may be less static than has been presumed, that crop pollination behavior and production outcomes are influenced by adjacent land use and landscape heterogeneity, that there are diminishing returns to managed pollination use, and that reliance on pollination service markets is intimately related to the farmers production technology. In chapter 4, the roll-out of a successful index-based agricultural insurance product is studied at-scale, which theoretically might lead to resource degradation, or improvement (in this case for rangeland quality), and evidence is presented that resource degradation concerns may be over-blown, lending credence to the idea that addressing missing financial markets can enhance productivity and agent's welfare without degrading fundamental natural resource stocks.

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208 pages

Supplemental file(s) description: Appendix for Chapter 4, Appendix for Chapter 3, Appendix for Chapter 2.


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agriculture; deforestation; pollination; rangelands; renewable natural resources; welfare


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Committee Chair

Just, David R.

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Barrett, Chris
Lin Lawell, C.-Y. Cynthia
Ortiz-Bobea, Ariel

Degree Discipline

Applied Economics and Management

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Ph. D., Applied Economics and Management

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

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dissertation or thesis

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