Dairy Producers' Perception of MAEAP Benefits by Stage of MAEAP Participation
Abdullahi Abdulkadri, Steven Miller, Sandra S. Batie, Satish Joshi
Surveys of Michigan Livestock Producers
To ensure that the categories of livestock producers being compared in our analysis are distinct, we eliminated from further analysis any producer in the general population who indicated that they had attended a Phase 1 Educational Event or that they were MAEAP-verified. We also removed from the sample any producer who indicated that they were unfamiliar with MAEAP or had not heard of MAEAP. These steps ensured that the general population group of producers consisted only of livestock producers who were familiar with MAEAP but had never participated in MAEAP. In a similar manner, we eliminated producers from the Phase 1 Educational Event attendee group survey who indicated that they were verified or who, although participated in an event, were unaware that it was a MAEAP event. This ensured that only those producers who had participated consciously in a MAEAP Phase 1 Educational Event but were not MAEAP verified were included in this group for the purpose of analysis. Therefore, the three distinct groups of livestock producers compared in the study are (1) MAEAP-verified (n = 95), (2) Phase 1 Educational Event attendee (n = 22) and (3) Non-MAEAP (n = 97) livestock producers, resulting in a total sample size of 214.
Analysis of Data
Results of MAEAP Surveys
For both dairy and non-dairy producers, the proportion of MAEAP-verified producers who indicated that each of the above-listed factors is important or very important in their decision to participate in MAEAP was higher than those that only attended a Phase 1 Educational Event. This suggests that those that do pursue and accomplish MAEAP verification are more responsive to the above-listed factors, though we cannot infer causation from this finding. However, there was one exception. Non-dairy producers that attended a Phase 1 Educational event were more likely than MAEAP-verified producers to place neighborhood concerns or pressure as a factor in their choice to participate in MAEAP.
Additionally, respondents were asked to rate benefits they receive or perceive they would receive by being MAEAP-verified. Respondents of all three surveys were presented with the following statements, categorized as either short-term or long-term potential benefits of MAEAP:
The proportions of respondents in each group of producers who indicated that they agreed or strongly agreed with the statements are presented in Figure 1 for the short-term benefits and in Figure 2 for the long-term benefits. It should be noted that in Figure 2 the first two statements on the long-term benefits of MAEAP are not applicable to non-MAEAP producers.
From the results presented in these figures, it is clear that, in general, MAEAP-verified and Phase I program attendees perceived relatively greater benefits to MAEAP participation in both the short- and long-run compared to those that have not participated in MAEAP. This pattern is observed for both dairy producers and non-dairy producers. However, non-dairy producers were slightly more likely to suggest that MAEAP verification increases their responsiveness to market change dictated by environmental concerns. Compared to other benefits, all groups displayed lower confidence that MAEAP verification helps differentiate their products, which may be because most producers do not directly market to consumers.
Comparing results across Figures 1 and 2 suggests that there was relatively greater agreement among groups of producers on long-term benefits of MAEAP than short-term benefits. In most cases, those that had completed verification indicated greater perceptions of long-term benefits. Non-dairy producers displayed slightly lower confidence in long-term benefits compared to dairy producers. Most glaringly, those participating in MAEAP showed confidence that MAEAP contributes to their preparedness for future environmental regulation and that MAEAP is an effective institution for preempting future regulation.
Figure 1 shows that both dairy and non-dairy producers have similar perceptions of short-term benefits to their operations. Among the findings, those that have participated in MAEAP either through verification or by attending MAEAP educational sessions indicated a greater belief that MAEAP verification reduces their liability if an environmental accident were to occur on their farm. It is interesting to note that these perceptions of producers that are MAEAP-verified are tempered relative to those that have been exposed to MAEAP through educational sessions, but have not gone through the verification process. Similarly, most verified dairy and non-dairy producers indicated a belief that MAEAP enhances their responsiveness to future changes dictated by environmental concerns, while a large percentage of Phase 1 respondents felt the same. Although only a few suggested that MAEAP affords a means to differentiate their product, a significant proportion viewed the benefits of MAEAP to outweigh the costs. This finding is more significant for those that have completed verification.
Figure 1: Short-term Benefits of MAEAP by Category of Livestock Producers
In contrast to short-term benefits of MAEAP verification, both dairy and non-dairy producers indicated greater confidence in long-term benefits of MAEAP. Figure 2 shows the outcomes of perceptions of the long-term benefits of MAEAP. As noted earlier, the first two statements on the long-term benefits of MAEAP do not apply to non-MAEAP producers, hence, they are not reflected on Figure 2 for this group.
Figure 2: Long-term Benefits of MAEAP by Category of Livestock Producers
MAEAP-verified dairy producers showed overwhelming agreement that MAEAP verification induced changes in their practices that protect the environment and that verification improved their management of their operations for environmental and regulatory matters. The significance is not limited to dairy producers or to those that have completed verification as non-dairy producers. Those who have participated in Phase 1 events also showed significant agreement. Furthermore, though most MAEAP participants agreed that MAEAP did or would help them prepare for future environmental regulation, non-MAEAP participants indicated significant reservation with this statement. Finally, MAEAP-verified dairy producers indicated a higher level of agreement that MAEAP participation will preempt future environmental regulation than MAEAP-verified non-dairy producers. For Phase 1 attendees, non-dairy producers were more likely to view MAEAP verification as preempting future regulation compared to those that are dairy producers. Regardless, non-MAEAP respondents showed less confidence that participation will preempt future regulations.
In the previous article (Abdulkadri et al., 2009), we reported that MAEAP-verified dairy producers tend to have greater confidence in long-term benefits than their non-dairy counterparts. The current article adds responses of non-MAEAP verified producers that may or may not have participated in at least one Phase 1 educational session. Where the 2009 study revealed statistically significant variation between dairy and non-dairy producers, tests of variation across MAEAP-verified and non-MAEAP-verified producers in the current study do not reveal statistically significant difference. The findings suggest that variation in perceived benefits by groups of producers differentiated by their MAEAP participation status is not as pronounced as variation between dairy and non-dairy producers. Despite the lack of statistical significance, there appears to be some differences in perceived benefits by level of participation. Namely, those producers who participated in MAEAP, either through verification or by attending MAEAP educational sessions, were more likely to anticipate long- and short-term benefits relative to non-MAEAP producers. However, whether this suggests that participation in MAEAP sets perceptions of benefits or that individuals self-select to participate in MAEAP based on their prior participation cannot be inferred.
The relatively low scores for the non-participants suggest that participation in MAEAP education events and verification process may increase the awareness about the various benefits of the program. However, data from this study may be reflecting self-selection into the program wherein those with higher expectations of outcomes are more likely to participate. Regardless, those that have attended a Phase 1 Educational Event tend to have a more positive expectation of MAEAP benefits and those that have completed verification, in many cases, temper that expectation.
The above interpretation of the results assumes that the surveys represent dynamic changes in attitudes of producers as they move from non-participation to participation in MAEAP education event, on to MAEAP verification. However, since the surveys did not track the same set of producers through the process, the results may also be open to alternative explanations. For example, it is possible that only the producers that already had positive beliefs about the benefits of MAEAP participated in the program and the participation only confirmed those beliefs. The results are consistent with this alternative explanation. Truth also may be a combination of these two causal mechanisms. Additional study is required to isolate these effects.
This study has established that some dairy producers perceived benefits from MAEAP beyond the presumptive benefit of pre-empting future regulation. Our findings point to the fact that irrespective of the discontinuation of the provision that allows for the substitution of MAEAP-verification for a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)/National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), producers who participate in MAEAP derive benefits (perceived or actual) beyond those related to regulation. However, our findings indicate that producers do not perceive that MAEAP is offering them the benefit of differentiating their products in the market.