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Farmers Believe In Climate Change But Don’t Think Humans Are The Cause, New Poll Shows

Farmers have seen wider swings in the weather, and increasing numbers believe climate change is happening.
Luke Runyon
Harvest Public Media
Farmers have seen wider swings in the weather, and increasing numbers believe climate change is happening.

A new poll shows farmers overwhelmingly believe climate change is real and will create significant weather problems but do not think it’s caused by human actions.

The latest annual Farm and Rural Life Poll, conducted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the Iowa State Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology, indicates 80% of farmers believe climate change is occurring, and more than half are concerned with its impact on their operations.

Both of those figures are up from recent years.

“Farmers have experienced a lot of extreme weather since 2011, from droughts to extreme wet, and it’s likely that’s driving some of the changes in perspectives,” said J. Arbuckle, professor and extension sociologist at Iowa State University. “Of course, farmers are closer to the weather than most folks, and that extreme weather can really make it difficult to plant, raise and harvest high-quality crops.”

The study also indicates only 18% believe human activities are causing climate change. That comes as there is an increasing focus from the Biden administration on agriculture’s role in mitigating the problem.

Climate change activists say changing practices is more important than changing minds.

“I don’t think we have the luxury of time to change everybody’s mind,” said Rolf Nordstrom, president and CEO of the Great Plains Institute, a nonpartisan energy advocacy group. “But what we could do is create the market conditions that allow agriculture to flourish in pursuing a low carbon, net-zero carbon world.”

Nordstrom said government agencies need to provide incentives for farmers to reduce their carbon footprint and play a role in carbon sequestration, such as taking carbon removed from the atmosphere and burying it underground.

That, he said, will make it a financial decision instead of a philosophical decision.

“As long as people are prepared and willing to adopt practices that can help society decarbonize,” Nordstrom said.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

Jonathan Ahl is the Newscast Editor and Rolla correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.