Producers are more likely to believe that climate change is fueled by natural causes than human activities, according to the initial results of a multistate, multiyear project led by researchers at Iowa State University to assess producer attitudes toward climate change.

Among producers, two-thirds believe climate change is occurring, a belief that mirrors the general public, says J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., ISU assistant professor of Sociology, who presented initial research results in October at the recent agronomist and crop/soil scientists annual meeting (ASA-CSSA-SSA).

“One difference is that farmers are more likely to believe that climate change is due more to natural causes than human actions,” he adds.

According to the survey of 5,000 growers in 11 states, 25% believe that climate change is occurring, and it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment. Another 33% attribute the cause more or less equally to natural changes and human activities, and 8% believe climate change is due caused mostly by human activity. However, 4% say climate change isn't occurring and 31% say there isn't enough evidence to say with certainty that it is.

The survey also showed that while many farmers support individual-level adaptations and institutional action to mitigate the impact of climate change, producers are more supportive of individual or private sector action than state or federal mandates, Arbuckle says.

“Importantly, nearly half of farmers who don’t believe in climate change do support doing more to protect farmland from weather variability,” he says.

The next step in the research is to interview 200 producers one-on-one to better understand perspectives on adaptive and mitigative practices and ideas on how to turn concern into action.

“Those who believe in climate change are worried about what’s coming,” Arbuckle says.

According to the survey, the top five worries of farmers are:

1. Drought and heat

2. Excess water issues

3. Pest and disease issues

4. Nutrient loss

5. Soil erosion