Lynne, Gary (University of Nebraska, Department of Agricultural Economics, Lincoln, NE, 68583-0922; Phone: 402-472-8281; Email:


Toward Resolution of the Conflicting Joint Interest in Carbon Sequestration


C. Kruse, J. Sautter, G. Lynne *


Farmers who use technologies and practices to enhance the amount of carbon sequestered in the soil could help to reduce the threat posed by global warming.  Environmentally conscious crop production focused on sequestering more carbon, however, may not be motivated by profit maximizing goals alone.  It is plausible to posit that farmers may also identify with, and possibly be in conflict with, the shared interest in reducing the effects of global warming.  If reducing these effects is a shared interest, sequestration technologies and practices may be adopted even if some profit has to be sacrificed in the process. If not, the financial incentive may have to be even greater than normally expected. This paper contends that the act of using technologies and farming practices that sequester more carbon directly contributes to satisfying joint and non-separable private (self) and public (other) interest tendencies in the farmer decision making process.  It is suggest these two interests may inherently be in conflict within each individual, and between farmers and others within the larger community of interests. The metaeconomic, behavioral-economics approach (Lynne, 1999, 2002; Hayes and Lynne, 2004) of this study suggests that farmers have a kind of non-separable, joint preference structure that includes both the egoistic-hedonistic pursuit of profit and the empathetic-altruistic pursuit of a shared public (other) interest, with both interests arising within the self.  Results of tobit regression modeling show that farmers’ decisions concerning how much of the carbon sequestering technology and practices to use are based on an interaction and resolution of the conflict between self-interest and other-interest. This effect is ameliorated through preferences for control and the influence of others over how the interests are integrated and balanced. The other-interest and control/influence variables add substantive and robust explanatory power to the standard economic model that would seek to explain this behavior only with financial variables (e.g., price, technology cost, debt-load).  The results suggest, instead, that it is quite likely that farmers seek both interests, jointly, and perhaps two kinds of utility rather than the mono-utility based pursuit of only a self-interested profit.  Substantive contributions by farmers to solving the global warming problem depend on such a joint pursuit, as the conflict in interests is resolved.  Agricultural policy, and carbon sequestration related policy in particular, needs to recognize this joint pursuit of interests, and focus on finding ways to bring about the complementarity that is possible across these interests.  Hayes, W.M. and G. D. Lynne. “Towards a Centerpiece for Ecological Economics.”  Ecol. Econ. 49,3 (July, 2004): 287-301. Lynne, G. D.  “Divided Self Models of the Socioeconomic Person:  The Metaeconomics Approach.”   J. Socio-Economics  28, 3 (1999):  267-288. Lynne, G.D. “Agricultural Industrialization:  A Metaeconomics Look at the Metaphors by Which We Live.”  Rev. Agri. Econ.  24,2 (2002): 410-427.