Poll: Drought Conditions Reinforce Conservation Importance

Despite a trying summer, some farmers don't approve of conservation cuts to fund disaster assistance.

Published on: Sep 12, 2012

American farmers value conservation programs, particularly in times of drought, and reject cutting conservation funding, according to a poll released Tuesday by National Farmers Union.

The bipartisan poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research – a Democratic polling firm – and Public Opinion Strategies – a Republican polling firm – surveyed 400 American farmers across 13 Midwestern and Great Plains states on their views regarding farm bill conservation programs. The results show that farmers view conservation programs as highly important, including in a time of drought, and they strongly oppose any plan to cut conservation in order to fund short-term drought relief.

New survey shows support for conservation programs.
New survey shows support for conservation programs.

"The findings in this poll clearly show strong support for critical conservation programs that are helping to lessen the effects of the current drought," said NFU President Roger Johnson. "Cutting funding for conservation in order to pay for a short term drought bill is detrimental to the long-term vitality of America's agricultural land."

The House-passed drought assistance bill, which has not been approved in the Senate, provides short-term relief for some producers, but uses money set aside for conservation programs to do so. Many farm groups believe that passing a full farm bill is the best option, as it would introduce funding for many sectors that have experienced negative consequences of the drought.

The Senate passed its version of the farm bill in June in a bipartisan vote, while the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee finished its mark up of the bill in July. House leaders did not bring the farm bill to a vote before adjourning for its month-long recess in early August.

"All of this could be accomplished if Congress would pass a farm bill before Sept. 30," said Johnson. "We would get drought assistance without having to cut conservation programs."

The survey was conducted in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Specific highlights of the survey include:

 - There is virtually no support among farmers for decreasing conservation funding. Eighty-six percent of farmers say the level of conservation funding should be maintained or increased.  Nearly half would be less likely to support a member of Congress who voted to further cut conservation funding from the farm bill.

 - Nearly eight in ten farmers (79%) believe that conservation programs are important to dealing with drought conditions.

 - The poll found that farmers reject a plan to pay for short-term drought relief by cutting conservation programs by a nearly two-to-one margin.

Congress returned from recess on Monday, however floor time has not been scheduled for a House vote on the Farm Bill.