Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Division of Resource Economics & Management

Committee Chair

Margaret Stout

Committee Co-Chair

Cheryl Brown

Committee Member

Cheryl Brown

Committee Member

Kathryn Gazal

Committee Member

Joseph Hatton

Committee Member

Michael Strager


Food and fiber production on America’s farmlands have a major influence on the environment, therefore, soil and water conservation practices are critical. NRCS has provided no-fee technical assistance for nearly 100 years through the Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) program. The CTA program is essential because it provides technical knowledge directly to farmers for planning and implementing conservation practices that are proven to benefit environmental health and on-farm production. CTA program funds support NRCS staff and training and are thereby the local service delivery vehicle for all NRCS programs. However, in recent years, funding for CTA has remained relatively constant while financial assistance program funds have increased dramatically. Because NRCS relies on federal appropriations, it’s vitally important to make the case for additional CTA funds while also developing strategies to increase program effectiveness. The objectives of this study were to: (1) determine the factors that influence farmers’ decisions to participate in the CTA program; (2) consider NRCS’s organizational capacity to deliver it; and (3) describe how NRCS might increase participation. A theory of change to increase participation was developed based on the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) approach and Community Capitals Framework (CCF). This theoretical model was used to develop and test hypotheses through a sequential mixed methods research design. The first method utilized Geographic Information System (GIS) modeling to identify the sample population. Next, asset mapping was used to evaluate a potential causal relationship between participation and organizational assets. Then, interviews were conducted to understand motivations and barriers to participation and inform survey design. Lastly, data from a mailed questionnaire was quantitatively analyzed to assess farmer motivations and barriers to participation. Results showed that additional CTA funds are needed to increase NRCS staff and expand training to build public engagement and community development knowledge and skills. Furthermore, results indicate that the addition of coproduction strategies through partnerships and farmer-to-farmer methods could further increase CTA program participation.