Iowa’s farmers have been getting lots of grief lately over water quality and farm runoff, but an Iowa State Extension report provides a different perspective on growers’ opinions on the issue.
Based on data from the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, the report suggests that farmers are both knowledgeable and supportive of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy released in 2013.
Here are a few highlights:
- 76% of the state’s farmers said they were “concerned about agriculture’s impacts on Iowa’s water quality.”
- 86% agreed that “Iowa farmers should do more to reduce nutrient and sediment run-off into waterways.”
- 48% agreed that meeting the Nutrient Strategy’s goals was a “high priority” for them.
- 46% said they would be willing to have an expert assess how well their farm is managing nutrient runoff.
But the report also indicated a number of obstacles for the state’s corn and soybean farmers.
Cost, particularly for those who don’t own, but rent, their farmland. More than half (56%) agreed that “landlords are often unwilling to spend money on conservation.”
So are growers. More than half (55%) said it’s hard to spend the money on long-term conservation when they’re trying to ensure profitability today. Almost a third (30%) said they “couldn’t afford to take land out of production and put it into conservation practices.”
The report also suggested that farmers weren’t getting very much support from their advisors on reducing nutrient runoff.
Just 8.2% of all farmers surveyed said they had heard about the state’s efforts from an independent crop advisor or agronomist—they were far more likely (63%) to have heard about the Nutrient Reduction Strategy from the farm press.
And while almost 14% said they had gotten information about it from their fertilizer or ag chemical dealer, a majority of farmers (60%) agreed that those companies “should do more to help farmers address nutrient losses into waterways.”
Large farmers (those with at least 500 acres of corn and/or soybeans) were the most well-versed in the initiative. One-third (33%) of large-scale corn/soybean farmers with 1,000 or more acres said they considered themselves knowledgeable or very knowledgeable about the Nutrient Reduction Stragegy, compared to barely 10% for small growers with between 1 and 99 acres of corn/soybeans.