Most Iowa farmers believe climate change is happening, unsure of cause

Source: Lauren Morello • E&E  • Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nearly 70 percent of Iowa’s farmers believe climate change is happening, and more than 40 percent expect extreme weather to strike more frequently in coming years, according to a new poll.

But the 2011 edition of Iowa State University’s Farm and Rural Life Poll suggests the state’s farmers are divided over the causes of global warming.

Sixty-eight percent of the 1,276 farmers who responded to the 2011 survey said they believe that climate change is occurring, but just 45 percent believe humans are at least partly to blame

Just 5 percent of respondents said they don’t believe climate change is happening at all. Another 28 percent aren’t sure. Not surprisingly, their uncertainty about the cause is reflected in the stance of Republican presidential candidates campaigning for selection by Iowa caucuses. This, the nation’s first primary, will be held on Jan. 3.

The survey was conducted in early 2011, at the beginning of a year marked by natural disasters across the United States. It found that 43 percent of farmers agree or strongly agree that such extreme weather will occur more frequently in the future.

This is the first year Iowa State researchers included questions about climate change in the long-running farm poll, which was established in 1982.

The results show the state’s agricultural sector is interested in a variety of measures to adapt to climate change, but farmers appear less supportive of government efforts to reduce the United States’ greenhouse gas output.

Want help from seed companies, not government

Sixty-three percent of farmers agree or strongly agree that seed companies should develop new crop varieties that are better adapted to the changing climate. Sixty-two percent agree or strongly agree that Iowa’s farmers should take actions to protect their land from increased precipitation.

But just 33 percent agree or strongly agree that the government should do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the poll found — roughly equal to the 31 percent who say they’re unsure and the 36 percent who disagree or strongly disagree.

The survey also asked farmers to rate their trust in different sources of information on climate change.

Just one group — Iowa State’s extension service, which conducted the poll — was trusted by a majority (54 percent) of farmers

Scientists and farm groups ranked second, with each group trusted by 41 percent of farmers who participated in the poll, followed closely by family and friends (38 percent).

The farm press and television weather reporters tied for most-trusted media source, with backing from 34 percent of respondents — trumping mainstream media (10 percent) and radio talk show hosts (9 percent)

Conservation groups (33 percent) won more trust than environmental groups (18 percent).

Government landed low on the list of trusted information sources, with 27 percent of farmers placing trust in state agencies and 23 percent in federal agencies.