'Farmers' Share Perspectives on Climate Change, Land Rents and Conservation in Latest Iowa Farm Poll

The latest Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll is now available

January 24, 2024, 3:46 pm | J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr.

AMES, Iowa – Although they wear many hats, perform many jobs and are referred to using many terms, it turns out the people who grow Iowa’s crops and livestock prefer to be called “farmers.”

The 2023 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll was released this winter and asked those surveyed what they preferred to be called. Some 75% said they prefer to be called a “farmer.” The term “farm operator” was a distant second, at only 10%, followed by even less popular names like “producer, grower and rancher.”

Farmers at Farm Progress Show.While the name may not seem like that big of a deal, it’s actually an important part of communicating with “farmers.”

“I work with a lot of people who work with farmers, and I hear them use different terms like ‘grower’ and ‘producer’ to refer to farmers. So I decided to ask farmers what they prefer to be called,” said J. Arbuckle, rural sociologist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and lead author for the poll. “Turns out they prefer to be called farmers, by a long shot. That’s important to know because to communicate effectively with audiences, we need to use terms that resonate with them.”

Some of the issues this year’s poll examines include climate change, soil and water conservation, rented land, woodland ownership and management, and markets for non-GMO corn.

This year’s survey is based on responses from 972 farmers. Nearly all (90%) plant corn or soybeans, and about half (47%) raise livestock.

New this year is a series of questions related to woodland ownership and management.

“Many farms have at least some woodland area, so we wanted to gain a better understanding of how that is being managed and the types of resources landowners are using,” said Billy Beck, forestry specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “These results will help us improve how we work with farmers who have woodlands.

Farmers walking through a pasture.Also new – the poll examines markets for non-GMO corn, in response to countries that have banned the import of GMO corn. Nineteen percent of farmers reported they were interested in contracting to grow non-GMO corn for export, while 54% said they were not and 27% said they were unsure.

Arbuckle said the Farm Poll is a great way for farmers to make their voices heard, while helping to contribute to a better understanding of challenges and opportunities in Iowa agriculture.

“The benefit is that farmers can confidentially share their perspectives on issues that impact their livelihoods, and the results help guide policy and program decisions that keep agriculture vibrant into the future,” he said.

Detailed results from the poll will be examined in future news releases from ISU Extension and Outreach. The full report is available from your ISU Extension and Outreach county office, the ISU Extension Store, the Extension Sociology website or from the authors.

Shareable photo: Farmers walking through an Iowa pasture.

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