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  • Heuristics, identity and learning in the paddock: Understanding farmer decision-making (and thereby reducing waste in agricultural research funding)

Heuristics, Identity and Learning in the Paddock: Understanding Farmer Decision-Making (and Thereby Reducing Waste in Agricultural Research Funding)

Presented by Geoff Cockfield, Executive Director, Institute for Resilient Regions

Date: 21 February 2020
Time: 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Venue: Toowoomba - Q502
Contact: For more information, please contact the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture Systems.
Booking: Please RSVP to  the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture Systems (CSAS) by Monday 17 February 2020.  If staying for the light lunch and have dietary requirements please advise.
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Agricultural research funding agencies wish to maximise rates of adoption of technologies and management practices that show evidence of benefit to farm business profit and resilience. Yet the rate, pace and forms of adoption of outputs combine to suggest low rates of returns on public investment in such research and extension, at least in the short to medium term. Apparent non-adoption, dis-adoption and ‘mal-adoption’ of proposed innovations and decision-support tools, have led to a range of studies that try to explain why farmers don’t adopt things that ‘could be good for them’.  
This presentation is a report on two studies of dairy farmers’ decision-making that draw on previous work, especially in relation to social identity and learning preferences, with the addition of insights from studies of cognition.  One study was of on-farm decisions around cow feed management and the other was of farm business decision-making. From these studies, the results from interviews with farmers and service providers suggest that farmers rely heavily on intuition and heuristics, with very little use of decision-support tools and even basic, formal economic analyses when considering  changes to farm systems and management. Decisions are hedged by personal work preferences and social and occupational identity. 
The presentation concludes with some ideas on how research and extension outputs could be better framed for the actual rather than theoretical decision-making context. Limitations of these studies are noted and then there will also be a discussion of the findings, with a light lunch to conclude.    

Professor Geoff Cockfield is the Executive Director of the Institute for Resilient Regions, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Systems at USQ and he was the 2018-19 Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Agriculture and Life Sciences at Kansas State University.
He worked in agriculture and rural journalism before starting an academic career. His research areas include agricultural policy, environmental policy and farm business decision-making. Recent research includes the financial consequences of carbon sequestration projects in Western NSW rangelands, the economics of soil improvement treatments and cognitive perspectives on farm business decision-making.