Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Analysis of Farmer Willingness to Produce Oilseeds for Biofuel in the Western U.S.

Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Determine and examine farmers’ willingness to: (1) produce oil seed crops for renewable jet and other biofuel options in the western United States; (2) contractual relationships between farmers and processors; and (3) market factors impacting viability of biofuel production.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Data Collection: The project will require the collection of both primary and secondary data. Primary data will be collected on-farm directly from farmers to obtain information about agronomic, economic, financial, and management data concerning agricultural production practices, marketing and contractual relationships, and social networks. Primary data will be collected using a Farmer Adoption Survey. Farmer Adoption Survey: A survey instrument will be developed and administered to farmers in the study region concerning (i) the adoption of bioenergy oilseed crops in existing wheat-based cropping systems; (ii) willingness to harvest or produce other cellulosic feedstocks, such as red cedar; (iii) the contractual arrangements under which these enterprises might occur with processors and/or bio-refineries; (iv) price discovery to determine at what prices farmers will adopt these enterprises; (v) existing management paradigms and practices for current cropping rotations; and (vi) use and need of extension information, technical assistance, and cost-share. The survey will collect additional information on farm characteristics, farm demographics, financial demographics and farmer attitudes toward bio-energy and conservation. The primary component of the survey will be a stated conjoint experiment to assess farmers’ willingness to produce alternative bioenergy oilseed crops under different contracting relationships with a processor or biorefinery. The experimental protocols of the experiments will follow conventional formats advocated in the economics literature to minimize bias to respondents’ choices. Primary data will be supplemented with secondary data from existing databases (e.g. USDA-NASS, Kansas Farm Management Association (agmanager.info), Kansas State University Extension, Farm Service Agency, USDA-NRCS) to collect pertinent input cost, price, crop management, agricultural and conservation policy, financial, climate, soils, yield, insurance and demographic data to use for analysis and modeling purposes.


3.Progress Report:

Two surveys have been initiated to meet the objectives of the agreement. The first survey examined outreach and extension efforts to farmers about feedstocks for biofuel production. There has not been a significant effort to determine the technical assistance, information and knowledge required by agricultural professionals for providing assistance to farmers in their decision-making in this area. The survey was used to assess the current state of knowledge of agricultural professionals in direct contact with farmers and their needs in this area. Particular emphasis was placed on oilseed feedstocks suitable for the western United States. The information provided from the survey will help to guide extension and outreach activities for the project and to help educate agricultural professionals, agribusiness and farmers in adoption of biofuel feedstocks and production.

The first survey focused on four primary areas: (1) job background and demographics of survey participants; (2) outreach and extension activities of survey participants; (3) knowledge about bioenergy feedstocks; and (4) knowledge and perceptions about oilseed feedstocks for biofuel production. The survey was sent to 7612 participants in ten western states (CA, CO, KS, MT, ND, NE, OR, SD, TX, WA) by email from November to December of 2012, of which 989 responded, providing a 13 percent response rate. Given the nature of the email survey conducted, the response rate is in line with other similar survey efforts. The survey provided useful information by agricultural sector (extension, research, government and agribusiness) and regions of the western U.S. on the level of current knowledge and needs. In addition, the survey provided useful information about the primary vehicles used by extension to learn and disseminate information that can be used to guide dissemination of project results and the forms of project deliverables. Two summary reports about (i) how extension and outreach personnel utilize different sources to learn about or obtain information and (ii) what vehicles (e.g. media sources, field days, etc.) extension and outreach personnel utilize to disseminate knowledge and information about bioenergy topics are being prepared for publication and dissemination.

The second survey was developed to examine farmers’ cropping decisions and interest in growing oilseed crops for bioenergy production. The information provided by the survey will help guide industry and policymakers about the potential for oilseed production for bioenergy; assist industry with contracting with farmers; provide knowledge on the suitability of oilseed crop options in different regions in the western U.S.; and help direct needed outreach and extension efforts. The survey was sent out to 10,090 farmers in 10 wheat producing states (i.e., CA, CO, KS, MT, ND, NE, OR, SD, TX, WA). At present about 10 percent of the farmers have responded to the survey, which may be due to the survey focusing on oilseed crops. This may provide an indication of the reluctance of farmers to consider alternative cropping options at this point in time given the present agricultural environment. On the other hand, it may be the case that the limited number of farmers interested may represent enough land to provide a viable market for oilseeds in different regions for producing aviation biofuels.

The farmer survey asked farmers about: (1) their current farming operation and cropping practices; (2) willingness to grow alternative oilseed feedstocks under contract; (3) past crop adoption experiences; (4) and personal demographics. The survey was sent out in April to June 2013. Data from the survey is currently being compiled and cleaned by a third party. An initial dataset is expected to be compiled by the end of July, 2013. A significant component of the survey is a stated choice experiment asking about farmers’ willingness to grow oilseed feedstocks for aviation biofuels under contract. This approach provides extremely useful information and can provide statistically powerful results even with small samples. The experiment was designed to assess farmers’ reactions to different oilseed characteristics (e.g. shatter resistance, pest tolerance and resistance, winter hardiness and effects of direct combining) and contract/market attributes (net returns under the contract, length of the contract, crop insurance availability, cost share assistance, and presence of an “Act of God” clause). The results from this part of the study will help to guide plant breeding research; market development initiatives; and effects on agricultural land usage.

A significant deliverable from the survey was a fact sheet about oilseed production for bioenergy that was sent out with each survey to farmers across the U.S. to provide information and lay a foundation for extension efforts. Thus, over 10,000 farmers have been provided some information about oilseed production opportunities and biofuel production.


Last Modified: 10/22/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page