Extension News

Poll Shows Farmers’ Views on Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy Amendment

J Arbuckle

Note to media editors: A news release about the 2010 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll Summary Report also is available.

10/14/2010

AMES, Iowa -- On Nov. 2, 2010, Iowans will have the opportunity to vote on an amendment to the Iowa constitution referred to as Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy. A new Iowa State University (ISU) research study offers some insight into farmers’ views of the proposed amendment and the trust fund it would create to finance conservation efforts.

More than 1,300 farmers participated in the 2010 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, said ISU Extension Sociologist J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., who co-directs the survey with ISU Extension Sociologist Paul Lasley. On average, the participating farmers were 64 years old and 48 percent earned more than half of their income from farming.

“We asked farmers for their opinions about the potential benefits of increased public investment in conservation,” Arbuckle said. “We also asked about their support for increased funding for conservation and whether they supported the trust fund initiative, specifically.”

The amendment would create a dedicated fund, called the Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, to protect and enhance water quality, conserve agricultural soils and establish, maintain and improve natural areas including parks, trails, and fish and wildlife habitat. The intent of the trust fund is to provide additional investment in agricultural conservation, wildlife habitat and natural resources-based recreation opportunities.

The constitutional amendment stipulates that 3/8 of 1 percent of any future sales tax increase in Iowa be dedicated to natural resource conservation. The amendment itself will not raise taxes.

On the whole, farmers appear to view the trust fund and associated natural resource-based development activities as potentially beneficial for Iowa farmers and rural areas, Arbuckle said. They also seemed to endorse the concept that generally, parks, trails and other natural resources-related recreational opportunities provide economic benefits to rural areas.

“The Farm Poll data indicate that a significant proportion of farmers support increased investments in conservation,” Arbuckle said.

However, the data indicated uncertainty about the proposed amendment as well. More farmers were uncertain about the amendment than were either supportive or in opposition.

“This suggests that many farmers are just not familiar enough with the initiative to offer their judgment,” Arbuckle said.

Even with the uncertainty about the amendment, a majority of farmers believe in increasing public funding to protect and enhance Iowa’s land, water and wildlife, he added. This research also shows that in general, Iowa’s farmers view investment in conservation as an important contributor to rural development, and beneficial to both farmers and rural areas as a whole.

“That farmers view conservation investment as a plus for rural development is not surprising, because it’s true,” Arbuckle said. “Research has shown that natural resource-based recreation investments generate economic development. In addition, demand for soil and water conservation assistance is greater than what state and federal government have to offer right now. I think many farmers see this as an opportunity both for them and for rural areas more generally.”

A complete analysis of the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll data related to Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy amendment has been published in a new ISU Extension publication, “Farmers’ Views on Conservation Funding and Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy Amendment,” PM 3008. It’s available to download from the ISU Extension Online Store (www.extension.iastate.edu/store/) and Extension Sociology (www.soc.iastate.edu/extension/farmpoll.html). The 2010 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll Summary Report, PM 3007, and all previous summary and topical reports also are available to download.

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Contacts :
J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., Sociology, 515-294-1497, arbuckle@iastate.edu
Laura Sternweis, Extension Communications and External Relations, 515-294-0775, lsternwe@iastate.edu

High resolution photo of J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr.