Conservation Ranks High in Public Survey of Farm Bill Priorities
October 6th, 2011
In a recently released survey of public opinion on agriculture and the environment, the majority of people surveyed approved of priorities that are in line with the NSAC agenda for the next Farm Bill and for federal funding for agriculture. The survey was the third annual survey on behalf of The David and Lucille Packard Foundation, conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group and Voter Consumer Research.
The goal of the survey was to assess how Americans view US agriculture policy, with an emphasis on assessing opinion on the role of conservation in the Farm Bill. The survey also gathered information on where conservation priorities should fit into the debates on the federal budget deficit and the national debt. The survey was based on 1,200 telephone interviews conducted nationally.
A summary of the survey’s findings on conservation programs include the following points:
- 69 percent said reducing the use of chemicals that contribute to water pollution should be a top priority of agriculture policy.
- 60 percent said farmers should be required to meet environmental standards such as protecting water quality or soil health as a condition of receiving subsidy payments and subsidized crop insurance. That number jumped to 65 percent in the six biggest ethanol-producing states (IA, NE, IL, MN, SD, IN).
- 57 percent did not agree with cutting funding for farm conservation programs, saying that these programs save money by preventing pollution.
- 52 percent said subsidies for crops such as corn and soybeans should top the list of programs to be cut, and 49 percent named crop insurance as the next target. Only 31 percent ranked conservation programs as top targets for cuts and just 23 percent wanted to cut food aid for low income Americans.
- 38 percent said protecting soil and farmland to ensure future food security should be the top priority of conservation programs, while 34 percent put protecting water quality at the top.
In addition, in response to a question about the top priorities for agriculture policy, 78 percent of those surveyed flagged making nutritious and healthy foods more affordable and more accessible as a top priority. The next highest priority, for 75 percent of those surveyed, was making sure family farmers can stay in business.