Economic and cultural values, the same forces that led people to alter floodplain ecosystems, will be the forces that determine the extent of their restoration. Landowner investment in agricultural production and forest and hydrologic restoration will reflect perceived economic returns from investments, as well as personal preferences for the environmental services each land use provides. Conservation programs and emerging environmental markets can encourage floodplain restoration, but will be effective only if they improve economic returns from bottomland management relative to other land uses. Over the past three years, prices for corn, soybeans, wheat, and other agricultural commodities have increased sharply, increasing returns to crop production and decreasing the amount of marginally profitable cropland, land most likely to be restored to bottomland hardwoods. Understanding commodity price dynamics is critical for understanding the potential for retiring cropland into bottomlands. Often Farm Bill conservation title provisions attract the greatest attention regarding bottomland hardwood restoration. However, the commodity title, which sets commodity price supports, and energy policy, need to be considered because commodity and energy policy effect returns from bottomland hardwood restoration.
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Vol. 29 • No. 2