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Impact of information letters on participation in Payments for Environmental Services
Last registered on May 20, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Impact of information letters on participation in Payments for Environmental Services
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0003353
Initial registration date
September 25, 2018
Last updated
May 20, 2020 10:13 AM EDT
Location(s)
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Inra and Toulouse School of Economics
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2017-11-01
End date
2019-01-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
This study aims at estimating the impact of information letters on the uptake of Payments for Environmental Services (PES) by farmers in Northern France. PES are subsidies compensating farmers for the adoption of green practices. The European Union Common Agricultural Policy (EU CAP) is home to the largest PES program in the world. PES programs are voluntary and thus their efficiency strongly depends on farmers being informed about the existence of the PES. In this project, we sent letters to eligible farmers (located near zones where PES are available) informing them of their eligibility, of the type of program available to them (practices subsidized and subsidy amount) and providing them with the contact information to caseworkers in charge of helping them with their application. We also varied the content of the letter, adding testimonies of farmers already benefiting from PES and the ease of response by adding easy to use pre-stamped return letters. Finally, we test for the existence of a social multiplier in the numbers of letters sent by varying the proportion of farmers in a given commune receiving the letter.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Chabé-Ferret, Sylvain. 2020. "Impact of information letters on participation in Payments for Environmental Services." AEA RCT Registry. May 20. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.3353-1.1.
Former Citation
Chabé-Ferret, Sylvain. 2020. "Impact of information letters on participation in Payments for Environmental Services." AEA RCT Registry. May 20. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/3353/history/68846.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
In this project, we sent letters to eligible farmers (located near zones where PES are available) informing them of their eligibility, of the type of program available to them (practices subsidized and subsidy amount) and providing them with the contact information to caseworkers in charge of helping them with their application. We also varied the content of the letter, adding testimonies of farmers already benefiting from PES and the ease of response by adding easy to use pre-stamped return letters. Finally, we test for the existence of a social multiplier in the numbers of letters sent by varying the proportion of farmers in a given commune receiving the letter.
Intervention Start Date
2018-01-01
Intervention End Date
2018-05-15
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
All outcomes are measured during the 2018 season
1/ Overall take up of PES contracts
2/ Overall area under PES
3/ Uptake of "hard core" PES or easy PES
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
All outcomes are measured during the 2018 season
1/ Overall take up of PES contracts (0/1 dummy)
2/ Overall area and/or length under PES (we have to convert some length units in area units, for example by assuming a constant width (3m) for hedgerows)
3/ Uptake of "hard core" PES or easy PES (hard core and easy PES are coded beforehand and independently by the CR HdF, this indicator measures whether the PES is more or less stringent)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
1/ Contact taken with caseworkers
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
1/ Contact taken with caseworkers: measures whether a caseworker has been contacted by the farmer (0/1)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We randomly select 10205 eligible farmers to receive the letters and 10169 to be in the control group.
Among the treated farmers, 5104 receive only the basic letter informing them of their eligibility, of the subsidies available and of the contact information of the caseworker; 3401 receive additionally a testimony of farmers already benefiting from the subsidy; 1700 receive additionally the easy to use pre-stamped reply letter.
There is also a first stage where communes are selected randomly in order to study possible social multiplier effects of the letters. 5427 treated farmers and 5430 control farmers are included in communes where only 50% of the eligible farmers are treated; 3448 control farmers are included in communes where noone receives the treatment; 3482 treated farmers are located in communes where every eligible farmer is treated.
There are also 1294 treated and 1293 controls that are located in communes only participating in the second stage of the experiment (their communes were too small to study diffusion effects but they could be included in the main effect specification).
Stratification was done by PES zone and by commune. That is we selected first communes in PES zones, and then farmers within communes.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by computer.
The approach used was to classify farmers within strata by the value of a uniformly drawn random variable and to assign them in cycle to the different treatments.
Randomization Unit
There is a two step randomization process, with first communes randomly drawn within PES zones and then farmers drawn within communes.
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
542 communes.
Sample size: planned number of observations
20474 farmers.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
In the final sample, we have 325 communes where 50% of eligible farmers receive a letter, 107 super control communes where no farmer receives a letter and 110 super treated communes where all eligible farmers receive a letter.
The design can also be analyzed directly by comparing treated and control farmers: 10205 treated and 10169 control. Among the treated farmers, 5104 receive only the basic letter informing them of their eligibility, of the subsidies available and of the contact information of the caseworker; 3401 receive additionally a testimony of farmers already benefiting from the subsidy; 1700 receive additionally the easy to use pre-stamped reply letter.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Power calculation has been conducted using randomization inference. MDE for 80% power, 2sided t-test, 5% size (in percentage points): - Direct effect of letter (all treatments merged, no diffusion): 0.75 p.p. - Effect of simple (bare) letter: 0.98 p.p. - Effect of letter with testimonies: 1.02 p.p. - Effect of letter with testimonies and easy to use reply: 1.45 p.p. - Effect of testimonies vs bare letter: 1.10 p.p. - Effect of testimonies + easy response vs bare letter: 1.45 p.p. - Effect of testimonies + easy response vs testimonies: 1.52 p.p. - Effect of treatment on the untreated in communes with 50% treated (vs control): 1.3 p.p. - Effect of saturated effect vs control: 1.55 p.p. - Effect of saturated vs 50% treated: 1.35p.p.
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
October 01, 2018, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
October 01, 2018, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
1273 communes
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
No
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
20374 farms
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
10219 farms in the control group and 10155 farms in the treatment group. 325 communes in the 50% treatment condition, 107 communes in the super control condition and 110 communes in the super treatment condition
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
No
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS
Description
We find that sending 10000 letters informing farmers about the program increases contacts taken by farmers to ask information by 323±40, the subscription of contracts by 63±40 (a 30% increase) without degrading the environmental quality of the contracts
Citation
ChabŽ-Ferret, Sylvain. "Analyse de lÕexpŽrimentation en Hauts de France," November 23, 2018.