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2012 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll: Pest resistance and certified conservation

AgDM Newsletter
July 2013

Two emerging topics of interest, pest resistance and certified conservation, were included in the 2012 Iowa farm poll to capture the thoughts of participants. The 2012 farm poll asked farmers to rate their concern about the potential development of widespread insect resistance to Bt and the spread of herbicide-resistant weeds. Another area gaining attention is certified conservation. This discussion has focused on the possible development of a training and certification program focused on helping Iowa farmers to improve their soil and water conservation abilities. The 2012 farm poll included a series of questions to measure farmers’ interest in and perspectives on such a program.

Concern about resistance in pests

Many Iowa farmers plant crops that are genetically modified to facilitate the management of insect and weed pests. A majority of corn planted in Iowa is “Bt” corn that is engineered to control corn rootworms. Nearly all soybeans and most corn planted in Iowa contain genes that confer resistance to the herbicide glyphosate. In recent years, populations of corn rootworms and several types of weeds that are resistant to these pest management tools have been identified in the state.

More than 80 percent of farmers expressed concern that herbicide resistance will become a problem where they farm (Table 1). More than 60 percent of farmers agreed that they are concerned about Bt-resistant insects becoming a problem.

table 1

Certified conservation farmers

The question set on a training and certification program focused on helping Iowa farmers to improve their soil and water conservation abilities was preceded by a short description of what such a program might consist of, as follows: “Several groups in Iowa are thinking about developing a voluntary program to certify farm operators as Certified Conservation Farmers. Training would include: identifying farmland conservation needs; understanding agencies, programs, and resources available to support conservation; planning and implementation of conservation practices; communicating conservation needs to landowners; and, marketing conservation skills to landowners. Farmers who rent land could promote their conservation farmer certification as an asset that would assure landowners that they would care for their land.”

In general, Iowa farm poll participants appeared to be open to the idea of a training and certification program centered on helping farmers to improve their conservation skills. Sixty-five percent indicated that they would be or might be interested in learning more about such a program (table 2). Fifty-four percent of farmers reported that they would be or might be interested in becoming a certified conservation farmer. Nearly 80 percent selected either “yes” or “maybe” in response to the question, “do you think a Certified Conservation Farmer program would help Iowa farmers to do more conservation?”

table 2

About one-third of farmers agreed that landlords would be more likely to rent to a “certified conservation farmer,” and that landowners would be more likely to rent to a farmer who was certified over one who was not, while 34 and 48 percent of farmers, respectively, responded “maybe” (Table 2). In response to a question about whether ISU Extension and Outreach should start a Certified Conservation Farmer program, 29 percent selected yes and 43 percent selected maybe. Overall, the results from these questions suggest that there would be substantial demand for such a program if it were developed.

About the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll

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

The 2012 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll summary report (PM 3036) and previous Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll summary and topical reports are available to download from the ISU Extension and Outreach Online Store or from Extension Sociology, http://www.soc.iastate.edu/extension/farmpoll2012.html.


J. Gordon Arbuckle, Jr., extension sociologist, 515-294-1497, arbuckle@iastate.edu
Paul Lasley, extension sociologist
John Ferrell, research assistant