As a Post-Doctoral Fellow on Intensively Managed Landscapes, Landon Yoder focuses on the collective action challenges facing farmers, government, and society in navigating tradeoffs between agricultural production and conservation, with a particular focus on water quality. His research examines how water management, agri-environmental policies, and farmer social norms function in combination to promote the adoption of on-farm conservation practices or in ways that create barriers to improving water quality. Prior to joining the Environmental Resilience Institute, he received his Ph.D. from the Department of Geography at Indiana University, which focused on the institutional dimensions of restoring water quality in the Florida Everglades. His past work experience includes four years editing a wetlands policy newsletter for the Environmental Law Institute and two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the St. Lucia, where he worked with farming communities largely dependent on exporting fair trade bananas for their livelihoods.

Research

Yoder studies the decades-long collective action problem of agricultural nonpoint source pollution. His work explores the institutional factors that encourage or discourage cooperation in response to this complex environmental governance challenge. He focuses on how actors perceive and respond to overlapping collective action problems that complicate governance arrangements to generate public goods, such as clean water. He employs mixed methods, including semi-structured interviews and qualitative coding, descriptive and inferential statistics, and spatial analysis.

Collective action in agricultural landscapes

A central focus of Yoder’s work is the role that collective incentives play in generating cooperation to protect water quality in agricultural landscapes, whether imposed through government regulations or as peer pressure from social norms. His prior research on the Florida Everglades demonstrated the critical effects that joint legal compliance had in shaping farmers’ willingness to share knowledge, draw on reputations, and challenge existing social norms to change water management practices. While much attention has been devoted to considering the strengths and weaknesses of subsidies and penalties for farmers, an equally and potentially more important element is whether incentives shift the focus from individual decision-making to collective action.

Collaborative watershed governance

Governing water sustainably is challenging in situations where there are competing water uses, fragmented jurisdictions, and ambiguity surrounding the sources and causes of flooding and water quality degradation. One of Yoder’s current projects looks at collaborative watershed governance in Iowa, where the state has authorized the voluntary formation of watershed management authorities, comprised of cities, counties, and soil and water conservation districts, to assess challenges and solutions for resolving flooding and water quality problems with watershed boundaries. His work looks at the types of strategies these governmental bodies use to collaborate and identifies lessons learned to build on the existing strengths of bringing together urban and rural constituencies.

Private land conservation

Promoting voluntary adoption of conservation practices on farmland has been a central component of agri-environmental policies for decades. While voluntary adoption remains relatively low, cover crop adoption represents a promising change over the past decade. Indiana is a state leader in cover crop adoption with 10% of its farmland enrolled. One of Yoder’s current projects looks at both the overall growth of cover crops in Indiana spatially and its likely impacts on water quality, as well as interviewing farmers and conservation officials about the underlying social and policy drivers of adoption.