Date of Award

8-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Agricultural Economics

Major Professor

Margarita M. Velandia, Roland K. Roberts

Committee Members

Burton C. English, Dayton M. Lambert

Abstract

Efforts to reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign petroleum encourage the production of fuels from bioenergy crops. Recent energy mandates have therefore “opened doors” for alternative feedstock sources for ethanol production. Switchgrass is a candidate feedstock. Under the University of Tennessee’s Biofuels Initiative, the University of Tennessee, partnering with DuPont-Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC, contracted for the production of switchgrass with local farmers to guarantee biomass feedstock supply for an ethanol conversion research facility. This study used methods borrowed from the social psychology literature in combination with economic theory to analyze factors influencing switchgrass farmers’ intentions to continue growing switchgrass after contracts with the granting agent expired. Understanding what motivates producers to make long term commitments to switchgrass production as an energy crop may be important information for private investors who will rely on a fixed supply of switchgrass.

A probit model was used to determine the factors affecting producers’ intentions to continue producing switchgrass after their contract expires. Results suggest that community perceptions about the production of switchgrass as a dedicated energy crop may have an important impact on farmers’ intentions to make a long-term commitment to produce switchgrass. Therefore, educating and involving community and extension personnel may have a positive impact on farmers’ decisions to make long-term commitments to grow switchgrass as a dedicated energy crop.

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