How Farmers Feel about Climate Change

Paul Mitchell, agricultural economistMitchell_Official
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
(608) 265-6514(608) 263-3964


Paul Mitchell details the opinions farmers have had towards climate change, and what it could mean for crop production.

3:07 – Total Time
0:17 – Confused about climate change
0:40 – What the survey asked
1:46 – How farmers may respond
2:24 – Implication of farmer attitudes
2:39 – Wisconsin farmers uncertain

Paul Mitchell and farmers feelings on climate change

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Sevie Kenyon: Paul, give us a sense of how farmers are feeling about climate change.

Paul Mitchell: They’re confused, a lot of them, and the issue is politicized. Some farmers are very clear; they don’t believe in climate change, that it’s not happening, that it’s not human caused. But a large chunk of the farmers were no opinion, is how they responded. We offered them this “I’m not sure” option on the survey, and I was surprised at the number who marked that option.

Sevie Kenyon: Paul can you give us a thumbnail sketch of your survey?

Paul Mitchell: Yeah, we focused on asking farmers their perceptions or beliefs about climate change. In particular we focused on “Do you believe that climate change has been scientifically proven?”, “I believe scientific activities are causing climate change”, “How do you feel about that?”, and then the last one was, “ I believe normal weather cycles explain a lot of this changes we’ve seen in a climate”. The first one is you know about, scientifically proven or not on the climate change, a lot of farmers were unsure. They marked the “No opinion”. Some were strongly saying “No, it hasn’t been proven”, and others were strongly in the other direction, “Yes, it has been proven”. A lot of farmers were very sure that it is not scientifically proven, yet they believe normal weather cycles explain a lot of the changes they’ve seen in the climate. So, they think there’s something going on. I guess my feeling is, farmers are much more interested in weather more than climate. They deal with, you know, how is the weather doing this week, this month, this year, this crop season. They’re less willing to say this is climate change, but they are willing to say this is what happens in agriculture.

Sevie Kenyon: And Paul, what kind of responses did you get in terms of how they may respond to climate change?

Paul Mitchell: In terms of how they would adjust to, say more extreme weather? Yeah I would say they plan on adjusting the crop mix; maybe changing their planting dates, or what they’re growing and when. Adjusting their business arrangements, their leasing arrangements; how they’re going to do with that. And then relying on crop insurance to help them deal with that extra variability so that their income flows stay more steady. Most farmers are not concerned about climate change effecting their yields or their yield variability. They’re skeptics about that it’ll actually impact their day to day lives on the terms of crop production.

Sevie Kenyon: Paul, what implications do these attitudes have?

Paul Mitchell: Farmers and rural landowners manage a huge proportion of the US land, and so anything that is affecting how people are managing land…they are going to be involved heavily in that.

Sevie Kenyon: Paul can you maybe parse out the Wisconsin responses?

Paul Mitchell: From the Wisconsin side, more of our farmers were in the uncertain category regarding how valid climate change is from a scientific perspective. Wisconsin had more people willing to admit, yes, there is climate change from a scientific perspective, or they were unsure.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Paul Mitchell, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin, and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, Wisconsin, and I am Sevie Kenyon.








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