Three essays on the economics of pesticide use
Pesticides primarily benefit humans in terms of protection of food production, prevention of diseases, and weed control, but also potentially harm people and the environment. Given increasing current interest in human health and environmental quality, pesticide usage has become more controversial. This dissertation investigates the use of pesticides and their alternatives from household, producer, and consumer perspectives to obtain insights about their behaviors and preferences. For households, the adoption of organic pesticides in lawns and gardens is examined. A multinomial logit model is applied to analyze factors affecting adoption versus being in distinct non-adopter categories using a dataset from a survey of 661 residents in Missouri. The organic pesticide adoption rate is low (17.7 percent) and found to be positively associated with pro-environmental attitudes and gardening behaviors but negatively correlated with concerns of neighbor's opinions on the homeowner's lawn appearance or management. Non-adopters differ, e.g., people who have never heard of the practice versus those know it well are predicted by different factors, implying demand for targeted educational campaigns or dissemination of information on effective practices as well as developing or labelling organic and environmentally-friendly products. Chemical pesticides are widely used for their effectiveness in terms of pest control as farmers have experienced in agricultural production since the 1950s. However, improper use of pesticides may result in inefficiency, thus reducing farm profitability, in addition to external effects of pesticide use on environmental and human health. Using a directional distance function framework on rice and fruit farm data from the 2016 Vietnamese Household Living Standards Survey, the dissertation finds inefficiency of pesticide use, especially in rice production. In addition, although both rice and fruit farms in the sample underused pesticides on average, about one-third of farms overused them and these were more likely to have higher off-farm income or be located in the Mekong Delta (the "Rice Bowl" of Vietnam) for rice farms or be younger, more educated and with more debt for fruit farms. These findings suggest pro-environmental policies need to take into account heterogeneity in the use of pesticides, addressing both underuse and overuse in developing countries, and feasibility of pesticide reduction that can reduce both input costs and environmental impacts. Consumer preferences are also crucial in the analysis of pesticide use since they provide farmers or producers information on preferred practices. In addition to households with lawns mentioned above, this dissertation incorporates insights on food consumption in an era when consumers have increasing concerns about exposures to pesticide residue in their diets. Specifically, discrete choice modeling is employed to investigate consumer preferences for different tomato purchase options regarding pesticide use. The data come from online survey responses of 343 Missourians. Results show positive preferences for tomatoes produced using 50 percent less pesticides as usual, but the willingness-to-pay for these tomatoes is only 6 percent above conventional tomatoes compared to 28 percent for organic produce on average. The results also indicate complementary effects between the reduced pesticide attribute and local or Missouri Grown labels. This implies strategies for labelling and reducing pesticides for local or Missouri Grown growers and policy makers. Furthermore, the examination of heterogeneity in consumer preferences for a reduction in pesticides illustrates areas where consumers prefer reduced pesticide tomatoes but not organic ones, implying the presence of different environmental preferences as well as a need for further studies for this niche market.