Farmer acceptance

Many researchers are performing empirical analyses of farmer acceptance of new technologies. As predicted, the nature of innovations—specifically, whether technologies are divisible or indivisible, whether or not sophisticated knowledge is needed for adoption, and whether or not the technologies require complementary inputs—is of primary importance in adoption decisions. Moreover, farm size, as predicted by theory, turns out to be an important determinant of adoption and, finally, farmers' perceptions and risk come into play.

Researchers have found that divisible technologies have high adoption rates because they have low fixed costs—both in terms of actual cost for the technology and minimal initial investment in improved human capital—and are simple to use (i.e., these technologies are laborsaving). Carpenter and Gianessi (1999) found that since its introduction in 1996, an herbicide-resistant soybean and weed control program has been rapidly adopted in the United States. While cost reduction is one reason for adoption, the primary reason that farmers switch to this program is the simplicity and flexibility of use. Fernandez-Cornejo, Daberkow, and McBride (2001) suggest that adoption rates are high because this kind of technology does not require significant adaptation of the production system (i.e., low fixed costs). Similarly, Bullock and Nitsi (2001) found that herbicide-resistant soybean is adopted by farmers in the United States because of lower treatment costs and, more importantly, because of simplicity of adoption and use and greater flexibility in the timing of treatment (i.e., lower labor costs). Farmers put in less time and effort scouting for weeds and determining how to treat them. Haung et al. (2001) also found that, unlike certain Green Revolution varieties, GMVs have a higher rate of adoption and are adopted by smaller farms because they are simple and convenient to use.

Theoretical predictions concerning farm size (scale), farmer perceptions, and uncertainty and risk are supported by recent research. Darr and Chern (2002) analyze adoption of GM soybeans and corn in Ohio (which is dependent on small family farms). They find that adoption of GM soybeans is not as extensive among smaller farms and also farmers who are not familiar with GM technologies. However, adoption is greater among those farmers who believe that the technologies are cost saving and yield increasing. These findings are supported by Alexander, Fernandez-Cornejo, and Goodhue (2002), who evaluate adoption patterns of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Iowa between 1999 and 2000. They find that larger operations producing corn or soybeans have a higher tendency to adopt while smaller farms are less likely to adopt.

Uncertainty and risk also play primary roles in farmer acceptance and adoption. Some studies have found significant disadoption. One explanation may be an expected decline in infestation. Growers who are more concerned with insect infestation would be more likely to adopt GMVs. Alternatively, uncertainty about acceptance of GMVs in Europe may reduce adoption. In fact, growers who feed their grain to livestock are more likely to adopt than growers who sell or export their grain. Moreover, while the first generation of GM crops, which are mostly pest-controlling varieties, has had generally rapid diffusion rates in the United States, the second generation of GM crops with improved output characteristics may have lower rates of adoption due to uncertainty about the benefits of the technologies. Jefferson, Traxler, and Wilson (2001) analyze the potential impact of these value-enhanced crops (VECs) based on experiences with field trails. They predict slower growth for VECs because of the uncertain yields (production risk) and product prices for these crops. Furthermore, VECs are likely to require more complex marketing arrangements than first generation technologies.

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