Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: March 1, 2005
Publication Date: July 29, 2005
Citation: Hatfield, J.L. (Ed.) The Farmer's Decision: Balancing economic successful agriculture with environmental quality. Soil and Water Conservation Society, Ankeny, IA. 251 p. Technical Abstract: Decision making to achieve a balance between the economic goals of producers and environmental quality benefits is complex. Most of the time we consider that the balance is skewed to one side or the other and that there are winners and losers. From the production perspective, the loser is the economic return in exchange for environmental quality while from the environmental perspective, the lower is the environment at the expense of agricultural production and increased inputs. In reality, there are opportunities within agriculture for a win-win situation; however, to explore the endless possibilities that constitute acceptable solutions is extremely difficult. Over the past few years there has been an increasing development of decision support tools that provide a framework that could be applied to agriculture. More information for the American producer would help them evaluate different scenarios in their farming systems and evaluate potential alternatives through a combination of simulation tools and decision support systems. A summary of the efforts can be expressed through the following. To affect change requires a platform that is balanced and methods to resolve conflict if we are to truly achieve a balance between economic and environmental goals. These programs and projects should serve as a springboard to involvement in policy-making rather than removal from policy discussions. Participatory research and programs requires that everyone be engaged in the process which makes the interdisciplinary approach an imperative and imagination about potential solutions a must. There are many facets to social learning and views about decisions suggesting that participatory approaches may not lead to improved quality of decisions. One of the major problems in discussing economic vs. environmental issues is finding the common aspects of the problem so everyone can “see” the same problem. On a global scale, problems are very similar and common approaches could be used to address field or watershed scale problems throughout the world. There are conflicting views about decision support systems because the element of social learning and engagement in the process of developing decision support tools varies among researchers and research teams developing these tools. One of the underlying premises of a decision support tool is a model and often models are developed for their own purposes rather than more general usage across a number of application areas.