Title page for ETD etd-32098-161956

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Kalo, Altin A. Jr.
Author's Email Address akalo@vt.edu
URN etd-32098-161956
Title Analyzing the Economic and Environmental Impacts of Agricultural Alternatives - the Case of Virginia's Eastern Shore
Degree Master of Science
Department Agricultural and Applied Economics
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Taylor, Daniel B. Committee Chair
Coale, Charles W. Jr. Committee Member
Sterrett, Susan B. Committee Member
  • Environmental Economics
  • Horticulture
  • Kenaf
  • Eastern Shore of Virginia
Date of Defense 1997-12-03
Availability restricted
The evaluation of production alternatives in agriculture

requires a close examination of their economic and

environmental impacts. This study was conducted to

identify the crops with the highest profit potential

given terminal market prices over the last five years,

evaluate the feasibility of adopting new crop alternatives,

given historical price information and limited production

resources, and determine the potential environmental

impacts of adopting new cropping strategies in Accomack

and Northampton Counties on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

A database of daily terminal price information was created

to identify the market windows for specific commodities,

their respective high, median and low prices, and their

price variability over the last five years. A linear

programming model was used to determine optimal farming

operations for those farmers that grow only wheat and

soybean versus farmers who are willing and able to include

vegetables in their crop mix. PLANETOR, an environmental

impact computer program, was used to estimate the potential

soil erosion, pesticide leaching and runoff, nitrogen

leaching, and phosphorous runoff for different scenarios.

The model shows that some of the new vegetable commodities

could substantially increase the net returns of the farming

operations in question. Romaine and Boston Lettuce were

consistently selected as the most profitable alternatives

while the region's traditional crops offered little

competition. Wheat and soybean production showed acceptable

levels of soil erosion, as defined by the T-values for the

region, and low potential for nitrogen leaching. They did,

however, exhibit a higher potential for water contamination,

through leaching, or runoff, of high toxicity chemicals.

Although lettuce production had higher than recommended soil

losses, a well-diversified crop mix offsets its negative

impacts at the farm level. Lettuce also uses low toxicity

chemicals, decreasing potential health hazard from their

leaching or runoff. The introduction of the new vegetable

commodities is recommended on the basis of the high profits that they offer, as well as the more positive pesticide leaching and runoff potential. Their final adoption, however, should take place only after establishing a well defined marketing strategy and resolving potential marketing problems.

No crop exists that could offer both high profits and have

no impact on the environment. Kenaf was thought to be one,

but it was soon eliminated on both grounds. This study

showed, however, that the new vegetable crops considered

may offer better net returns, while they do not necessarily

translate into environmental disasters.

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