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Abstract

The Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) is a voluntary environmental program (VEP) initiated in 1999 by a coalition of state government agencies and agricultural, environmental and conservation groups in Michigan. We survey Michigan livestock producers and conduct discussion group sessions with state environmental regulators to assess the incentives, motivations, and barriers for participating in MAEAP. Economic theory identifies two major motivations for firms’ participation in voluntary environmental programs: ‘regulatory preemption’ and ‘signaling.’ Under a ‘regulatory preemption’ scenario’, firms engage in voluntary pollution reduction through VEPs to reduce the risk of future regulations. Under a ‘regulatory preemption’ scenario’, theory posits that firm participation will be greatest among those most likely to be affected by anticipated future stringent regulations. Survey findings suggested that producers anticipate future expansion of stringent environmental regulation and expected that MAEAP certified farms would be perceived and treated as ‘environmentally’ more responsible. Alternatively, DEQ officials appeared to view MAEAP using the ‘regulatory pre-emption’ lens. Regulators’ and producers’ views were influenced by past political maneuvering of the MAEAP program.

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