Farmers Seek Solutions to Climate Change

Upcoming negotiations over the next Farm Bill are likely to be very heated.

One of the most contentious issues that Congress will be grappling with is the extent to which the Farm Bill should incentivize farmers to institute climate-friendly “regenerative agriculture” practices, such as the use of cover crops, no-till farming, and other measures that can improve soil health. Better soil health has been proven to strengthen a farm’s resilience to climate change, reduce run off, improve the nutritional quality of our food, and even act as a carbon sink to mitigate climate change more generally.

But how do farmers feel about these measures?

Recent research finds that American farmers recognize the urgent threat of climate change and are looking for solutions to help them adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Severe weather events are impacting America’s farms

Through the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, Iowa State University has been tracking the experiences and attitudes of Iowa farmers for 40 years.

  • In its 2022 survey, over eight in ten farmers said that they have experienced significant drought on their farms, 60% crop damaging hail, and 50% have had to cope with significant flooding.

Farmers recognize climate change and are concerned about its impact

Farmers increasingly recognize climate change as a contributing cause of severe weather events.

  • In its 2020 survey, 81% of Iowa farmers agreed that “climate change is occurring,” up from 68% in 2011, and half (51%) of farmers are concerned about the impact of climate change on their farm, up from 35% in 2011.

Exhibit 2Farmers are already adapting to climate change on their own

  • In the 2020 Iowa Farm poll, half of Iowa farmers (51%) said they plan to use more conservation practices to increase their farm’s resilience to extreme weather. Indeed, in 2020, 43% of Iowa farmers said they have increased their use of no-till farming, and 27% have increased their use of cover crops in response to weather variability.
  • In another study, young Illinois farmers said that they are already experimenting with new crops and investing in soil health and other climate change mitigation strategies. These young farmers explained “that they are doing this adaptation work largely on their own, and that institutional resources are not moving quickly enough to respond to the pace of new threats farmers are facing from a changing climate.

At the same time, many farmers feel ill-equipped to deal with the impacts of climate change

  • In the 2020 Iowa Farm poll, fewer than one in three Iowa farmers (31%) agreed with the statement: “I have the knowledge and technical skill to deal with any weather-related threats to the viability of my farm operation.”
  • In the same poll, just one in four farmers (27%) said that they have the “financial capacity to deal with any weather-related threats to the viability of my farm operation.”

Farmers are actively seeking solutions and resources to help them become more resilient

  • In a recent survey of nearly 3,000 Midwestern farmers, three in four respondents (75%) said that they support policies that offer them incentives to take steps to reduce run off and soil loss, improve air quality and increase resilience to floods and droughts.
  • In the 2021 Iowa Farm survey, nearly six in ten farmers (58%) expressed support for programs that incentivize conservation practices, and over half (53%) said they would personally participate in a program that pays them to capture carbon through soil health practices.

Overall, this research suggests that farmers are being severely impacted by climate change, are trying to adapt, and are looking for help and solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change. Congress should listen.

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