affects their behavior, and whether farmers are getting a consistent message. Regarding weed resistance management, growers are still getting conflicting messages about the value of certain practices (such as use of below-label rates for herbicides).
There are also lessons to be learned from voluntary environmental programs. The track record of voluntary programs has been mixed, but there are some successes. There is some evidence in the literature that voluntary programs perform better if there is a regulatory option in the background. It might be helpful for extension education to find out what farmers think of particular regulatory options. Growers may respond more favorably to voluntary options if they are made aware that regulatory options are also being considered.
A Miranowski and Carlson paper for the National Research Council’s 1984 symposium1 on strategies and tactics for managing pesticide resistance in insects posed the question: What is the proper division between the public and private sectors regarding resistance management? Instead of assuming resistance is a problem with the private sector that necessarily requires regulation, the paper examined the conditions more favorable to voluntary approaches and those more favorable to regulatory regimes. Looking at the conditions that would predict one or the other, their model successfully predicted why there is a different regulatory system for insect-resistant versus herbicide-resistant crops. They looked beyond farm-level problems and examined the market structure and the pricing of the input supply industries. Input suppliers and growers both want pesticides to stay effective, so they looked at to what extent commonality could be used as a way to structure programs. They also focused on the fact that price is a signal of scarcity. Insecticide prices at the time of the study were not going up relative to other inputs, so the market was not providing growers with any signal that these compounds were becoming scarcer. Applying the same framework today to herbicides, we see that herbicide prices are rising more slowly than most other production inputs, so farmers are not getting any price signal in the market that new technologies are not coming. However, seed markets and chemical markets need to be looked at together because of genetically engineered crops. Seed prices have been going up, so the price of seed may be the signal of scarcity.
The relevant players in improving adoption of BMPs are:
1Miranowski J.A. and G.A. Carlson. 1986. Economic issues in public and private approaches to preserving pest susceptibility. Pp. 436-448 in Pesticide Resistance: Strategies and Tactics for Management. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.