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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School


First Advisor

Thomas L. Dobbs


This thesis examines the 1996 Farm Bill and its potential effects on crop system diversity. This new Farm Bill has several features that may prompt farmers to rethink their current farming systems. The main features of the Farm Bill are the market- oriented aspects and the decoupling of farm payments. The study region for this thesis consists of seven counties in eastern South Dakota which lie over a large portion of the Big Sioux Aquifer. This aquifer is the primary source of water for the residents of eastern South Dakota and is now being threatened by possible contamination of nitrates. Over the years, farmers' crop systems have narrowed, partially due to past farm bills. Narrow crop systems, such as corn and soybeans, have a greater tendency of leaching nitrates into groundwater. Under previous farm bills, farmers received support payments if they grew certain crops. The 1996 Farm Bill, however, decouples the support payments and allows farmers to plant any crops, with minor exceptions for fruits and vegetables, and still receive income support payments. Therefore, farmers now have the option of adopting more diverse crop systems to help protect groundwater sources. This thesis examines how crop systems have evolved over the past 50 years and presents the findings in line graphs and bar charts. Some regression analyses were run to determine the impacts of the many variables on crop systems. Focus groups were formed in the northern and southern ends of the study region to gain insights from farmers on how the 1996 Farm Bill has impacted, or will impact, their farming decisions on crop system diversity. The results of these analyses revealed that the flexibility provisions of the 1996 Farm Bill are prompting few, if any, changes in farmers crop systems. The predominant corn and soybean rotation in the southern end and a corn, soybean, and wheat rotation in the northern end of the study region have typically been the most profitable over the years. Farmers do not anticipate major changes in their crop systems unless some adverse conditions occur that would make other resource- conserving crops more profitable.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

United States. Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996
Cropping systems -- Economic aspects -- South Dakota
Crop diversification -- Economic aspects -- South Dakota




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