Friday, April 06, 2012

How common is common practice?

Clare writes: “I was under the impression that additonality only kicks in if the whole industry has a 5% adoption rate, not if a district does? Where is this written? I can't find reference to 5% anywhere on the Govt's website or material.”
Thank you for your question.
A reference to 5% can be found in the "Positive List Guidelines Common Practice". The text reads: " For the relevant comparison group: The adoption rate for the activity is estimated to be less than 5% because
- data indicates that this is the case;
- the activity is dependent on a new technology;
- there is at least one significant impediment to adoption; or
the activity penetration has not yet reached the take-off point for that activity.”
The Guidelines also contain the following: "For example, a particular activity might be common among southern beef producers, but uncommon among beef producers in the north of Australia. For example, the restoration of wetlands may be common in national parks, but uncommon on land under other management regimes. The comparison group can also be thought of as the people subject to the same factors influencing whether they adopt an activity, or who share common barriers t]]o uptake of an activity. The relevant comparison group could comprise all participants in an industry, subsector or a region."
The words below come from the CFI Regulations Explanatory Statement. The last word is 'environments'. It is use]d in the following context: "The positive list identifies activities that are not considered to be common practice within relevant industries or environments." The concept of 'environment' in context of adoption of management practices by farmers could refer to the geographic locations through which the practice spreads by 'over the fence' observation, eg no-till penetration is highest in WA, next highest in SA, and so on. The concept of the 'diffusion of innovation' applies across industries and districts (subset of region). The word 'environments' is possibly used by the writer of the Explanatory Statement to allow for any other subset of 'farmers' which the Government may identify in future.
As for 5%, there has been talk of extending it to 30% in some cases. Perhaps the most important element of the Common Practice Principle is that the impact of the CFI will taken into account. In accordance with the CFI legislation, the Minister must factor out the impact of the scheme when assessing whether an activity is common practice .This might be just as well because there could be an issue with the model of adoption chosen for the CFI. It has to do with the 'take-up rate' and the 'take-off point'. "The take-up rate is the percentage of landholders in the comparison group who are currently undertaking the activity. It is sometimes called the 'adoption rate'. The uptake of a technology or practice is generally slow during the invention and innovation phase. The activity penetration rate increases until the take-off point is reached indicating that there are no significant barriers to the adoption of the activity and that the activity will become common practice." But it cannot be assumed that farmers will adopt new ways of farming at the same rate after the incentive of CFI offsets is removed. The take up rate prior to the activity reaching take off point will be driven by the financial incentive (otherwise the farmer would have already adopted it). The adoption rate could slow once the activity comes off the Positive List, especially among those who have no natural inclination to adopt the new.
The concept of Adoption Rate first appeared in 1943, researchers from Iowa State College plotted farmers adoption of a new hybrid corn seed. The bell curve they observed has since become known as the classic adoption curve for new ideas, practices, products and services. The process of adoption over time follows a classical normal distribution or "bell curve." The first group of people to change is called "innovators," followed by "early adopters." Next come the early and late majority, and the last group are called "laggards." The demographic and psychological (or "psychographic") profiles of each adoption group are:
* innovators - had larger farms, were more educated, more prosperous and more risk-oriented. (Added to this could be, in the case of the CFI, conservation-oriented farmers.)
* early adopters - younger, more educated, tended to be community leaders
* early majority - more conservative but open to new ideas, active in community and influence to neighbours
* late majority - older, less educated, fairly conservative and less socially active
* laggards - very conservative, smalls farms and capital, oldest and least educated.
The world expert on take up rates and adoption curves is Geoffrey Moore who wrote Crossing the Chasm in 1991 and set the standard. Moore identifies a chasm between the early adopters (enthusiasts and visionaries) and the early majority (the pragmatists). This is the chasm and it is right at this point the 5% line is crossed. The withdrawal from the Positive List could depress take up of the activity by the farmers who are least likely to adopt without financial incentive. Again the Minister will factor out the effect of the CFI. That should solve a lot of issues.

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