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Poll: Half of Iowa Farmers Interested in Cover Crops
Iowa Ag Connection - 03/17/2017

More than half of Iowa's farmers are interested in cover crops. In Iowa State University Extension's Iowa Farm and Rural Life poll, 20.6 percent of farmers used cover crops in 2015 and another 33.5 percent said they might use it in the future.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey says it's encouraging to see those numbers, "It also shows the potential for significant growth in acreage of cover crops. In many cases farmers are trying cover crops on a limited acreage and then starting to expand that as they become more familiar with the practice and better understand how it fits into their farming operation."

For other conservation practices, 42 percent of farmers say they used no-till practices in 2015, with another 20 percent who might use it in the future. And while fewer than a percent used bioreactors, more than 15 percent are interested in trying it out.

The poll sent surveys to more than 2,000 farmers, about 1,000 responded. Participants averaged 65 years old, with larger than average farms at a mean of 450 acres.

Like the 2015 Farm Poll, this year's survey contained many questions about soil and water conservation. A second major area of inquiry was trust in various information sources, and preferred ways of receiving information about different agricultural topics. The survey also covered perspectives on monarch butterfly habitat improvement, quality of life, and farm financial well-being.

The Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll was established in 1982 to provide timely and relevant information on agriculture and rural life. Generally known simply as "The Farm Poll," it is an annual survey of Iowa farmers. It is a cooperative project between the Iowa State University Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, ISU Extension Service and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The annual survey is managed by ISU Extension Sociology. The overall objective of the Farm Poll is to understand how the ongoing changes in Iowa's agriculture and rural areas affect farmers and rural society as a whole.

A statewide sample of approximately 2,000 farm operators participate in the annual survey. The questionnaires are sent to the same group of farmers every spring, which permits analysis of change over time.

A wide variety of issues are examined through the Farm Poll: opinions about current agricultural policies, land stewardship ethics, assessments of the future of farming, research and extension education needs and priorities, the incidence of off-farm employment, plans for the future, the next generation of farmers, etc.

Information from the poll is made available to local, state, and elected officials, community leaders, farm organization leaders, policy makers, and many other groups and individuals who have a stake in the vitality of agriculture and rural society. Information from the Farm Poll is used to guide policy decisions and actions and as the basis for public policy seminars, Extension reports, radio and television broadcasts, and newspaper and journal articles.

"The Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll is a great tool to gauge what farmers are thinking and I appreciate the continued focus by the poll on conservation and water quality efforts. I am very encouraged by a number of the results that show farmers increasingly aware of the issue and continuing to try new practices.

"It is encouraging that 20 percent of the poll respondents used cover crops in 2015 and 33 percent said they might use them in the future, especially when compared to the number of farmers using cover crops just a few years ago. It also shows the potential for significant growth in acreage of cover crops. In many cases farmers are trying cover crops on a limited acreage and then starting to expand that as they become more familiar with the practice and better understand how it fits into their farming operation. We all recognize that we still have a lot of work to do, but the engagement by Iowa farmers and their willingness to make investments to better protect water quality is very encouraging."

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