Iowa Farm & Rural Life Poll 2011 Results

Iowa Farm & Rural Life Poll 2011 Results

Farmers voice opinions on climate change in new results released by 2011 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll.

Many Iowa farmers are concerned about the potential impacts of climate change on agriculture, but opinions differ about the causes and questions remain about how to address the issue, according to the 2011 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll.

Results from the annual poll are available in the 2011 Summary Report, PM 3016, which can be downloaded at no cost from the Iowa State University Extension Online Store www.extension.iastate.edu/store/.

J. Gordon Arbuckle

"In the past several years, extreme weather events in Iowa and across the Midwest have led to discussions about climate change and its potential impacts on agriculture," says ISU Extension cociologist J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., who co-directs the survey with ISU Extension sociologist Paul Lasley. "We wanted to understand Iowa farmers' perspectives on this issue."

The 2011 poll measured beliefs about whether climate change is occurring, possible causes, potential impacts and appropriate responses from the private and public sectors. Farmers also were asked to rate their level of trust or distrust toward specific agencies, organizations or groups as sources of information on climate change. Arbuckle says 1,276 farmers participated in the poll. On average, the participating farmers were 65 years old, and 51% earned more than half of their income from farming.

Beliefs and concerns about climate change—what Iowa farmers think

Overall, 68% of farmers indicated they believe climate change is occurring, Arbuckle said. Of those, 35% believe climate change is caused by both natural variations in the environment and human activities. About a quarter of farmers attributed climate change to natural changes in the environment, and 10% believe it is caused mostly by human activities.

"A number of farmers expressed uncertainty or skepticism about climate change. In the poll 28% indicated there is insufficient evidence to determine with certainty whether climate change is occurring or not. And 5% did not believe that climate change is occurring," Arbuckle says.

More than 40% of farmers expressed concern about the potential impacts of climate change on Iowa agriculture, and almost half believe that extreme weather events will happen more frequently in the future, Arbuckle adds. "However, there is also a lot of uncertainty about these issues."

Potential responses to climate change--farmers favor private sector response

In general, farmers appear to favor individual and private sector responses to the threat of climate change over response by the public sector.

"For example 62% indicated that seed companies should develop crop varieties adapted to changes in weather patterns. And 61% agreed that farmers should take steps to protect their land from increases in precipitation, and 46% indicated farmers should increase investment in agricultural drainage systems," Arbuckle says. "On the other hand, farmers were more uncertain on whether public entities such as state agencies should take steps to address climate change."

Trust in sources of climate information—Extension trusted by majority of farmers

Farmers also were asked to rate a list of agencies, organizations and individuals regarding how much they did or did not trust them as sources of information about climate change and its potential impacts.

"Of the groups listed, only university extension was trusted by a majority of farmers. At 54%, Extension was a more trusted source of climate change information than any other individual or entity," Arbuckle says. The mainstream news media and radio talk show hosts were the least trusted groups: less than 10% of farmers trust them as sources of information about climate change, while about 60% distrust them, Arbuckle notes.

More about the Farm and Rural Life Poll: The 2011 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll focused on a range of issues that are important not only to agriculture but to all Iowans. The 2011 survey also examined farmers' views on conservation issues, investment in agricultural drainage, use of the Internet, and their perspectives on reducing the federal deficit and balancing the budget.

Conducted every year since its establishment in 1982, the Farm and Rural Life Poll is the longest-running survey of its kind in the nation. ISU Extension, the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Iowa Agricultural Statistics Service are all partners in the Farm Poll effort.

The 2011 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll summary report and previous summary and topical reports are available to download from the ISU Extension Online Store (www.extension.iastate.edu/store/) and Extension Sociology (www.soc.iastate.edu/extension/farmpoll.html).

Many Iowa farmers are concerned about the potential impacts of climate change on agriculture, but opinions differ about the causes and questions remain about how to address the issue, according to the 2011 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll.

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