Farmer Perceptions of Climate Change: A Path Forward

Bing cherries are harvested from Jeff Colombini’s orchard in Lodi, where a shorter chilling season has resulted in many stunted, half-grown blossoms. Credit: Serene Fang/Center for Investigative Reporting

A recent UC Davis survey of Yolo County farmers finds that perceptions of environmental regulations can influence how they view climate change. The majority of farmers surveyed (54 percent) said that climate change is occurring. But for those skeptical of climate change, the UC Davis researchers found that perceptions of past environmental programs matters.

Those who had negative experiences with past policies, such as pesticide use reporting, rice straw burning ban, water quality and diesel engine regulations, were more likely to express skepticism about climate change.

Despite past negative experiences, a near majority of farmers surveyed (48 percent) said they would participate in a government incentive programs on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“This shows that farmers are willing to overlook negative past perceptions if there are incentives offered for them,” said Meredith Niles, PhD candidate and lead author of the study.

The UC Davis study offers a path forward: we can achieve real climate solutions in agriculture by offering incentives, likely combined with complementary research and technical assistance, to realize the multiple benefits that climate friendly agricultural systems have to offer.

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