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We consider the effect of perceived economic pressures on the ethical attitudes of farmers. We hypothesize that an increase in the economic pressures a farmer faces could result in that farmer being more tolerant of unethical conduct than farmers not experiencing economic pressures. To test this hypothesis, we use data from a survey of 3,000 Missouri farmers with farm sales in excess of $10,000 in 2005 in which farmers were asked how acceptable they considered various unethical or questionable farming practices. The survey also contained questions designed to measure perceived economic pressures. We find evidence that economic pressures result in a greater willingness of farmers to tolerate unethical conduct, particularly in the case of actions that have the potential of causing harm or that are influenced by law or contract. We also find that the more frequently a farmer reports observing an unethical action, the more acceptable he is of it.


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