Agricultural conservation research was revived by rural sociologists in the late 1970s and gained momentum during the 1980s. Most of this research was focused, however, on social and farm organizational factors affecting technology adoption and diffusion. Few studies included environmental factors such as soil characteristics, land physiography, and climate. This paper reviews rural sociologists' recent attention to environmental factors. Next, it describes the ecological and agricultural variation among production regions in the South and overviews Southern producers' participation in federal farm conservation programs. Finally, it prescribes three tasks for rural sociologists in the South to consider if they are to improve their participation in the agricultural conservation policy process. *This paper is adapted from the presidential address given at the annual meeting of the Southern Rural Sociological Association in Lexington, Kentucky, February 1992.

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