Analyzing the costs and benefits of manure management regulations for dairy farm economic viability and soil and water sustainability

PI: Jeremy Foltz


Jeremy Foltz is a professor of agricultural and applied economics. His research focuses on the economics of technology adoption and farm structure in the US and Africa, the economics of climate change, political economy issues related to corruption and natural resource governance in Africa, the effects of trade policies in Africa, and the economics of the research process at US universities.

Stewarding land and water resources and overcoming the financial hardships that lead many farms to exit the dairy business are two key challenges faced by the Wisconsin dairy community. A future where Wisconsin waterways are clean with an economically thriving dairy community requires effectively designed environmental and economic policies. The goal of this project is to analyze how and under what circumstances manure regulations improve water quality. This research will produce a dataset of local manure regulation over time, shedding light on current policy structure and inconsistencies and facilitating scientific analysis of regulatory impacts. This data will be used to test whether current manure policies, and which aspects in particular (eg. storage vs spreading regulation), improve local water quality. Researchers will also consider how the local context (eg. farm sizes, soil depth, typical climate patterns) interact with policy effectiveness. The study will add to the understanding of how regulation of non-point sources improves water quality. This information will help policy makers craft regulation based on sound science that maximize the benefits to waterways and minimize their costs to farmers. This research supports the Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0 recommendation #47: “Need for regulatory certainty and consistency” and #19: “Capital for new and emerging technology”. Marin Skidmore, a postdoctoral fellow in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies is collaborating on this research.

Publication in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics – February 2023

Publication in the Journal of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association – November 2023

Marin Skidmore