MSU Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics
Increased awareness and concern about health and environment are causing a change in public attitudes toward agriculture. In the name of environmental protection, new restrictions are being placed on private property rights, causing uncertainties and altering the economic options available regarding the use of land for agricultural production.
This paper deals with questions regarding; what are private property rights, what entitlement does land ownership include, and how are property rights being changed? While recognizing there are additional issues impacting property rights such as nuisance conflicts between rural non-farm residents and their farm neighbors, and zoning ordinances, this discussion will be limited to the changing property rights due to environmental protection. These are questions currently being debated by people who believe they hold certain property rights, and by others who either want control or reallocation of those rights, or who also believe they are entitled to those same rights. As the allocation of private property rights changes, the determination of who holds what rights directly affects landowners engaged in agricultural production.
Changes required in agricultural management are the result of new information regarding the impact of some agricultural practices, such as; atrazine is no longer viewed simply as a weed control product for corn production, but is now viewed as a substance that causes degradation of the groundwater; and wet spots in fields should no longer be tiled to improve the productivity of the land, but should be left as possible habitat for wildlife. While changes in management practices may be necessary and appropriate, uncertainty for agricultural producers is created regarding which current practices may be restricted in the future and how much control will those outside of agriculture have on the management and operation of agricultural operations.
This paper is an analysis of the issues underlying the conflicts resulting from changing agricultural private property rights due to regulations seeking to increase environmental protection.