Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Policies worry farmers more than climate change


They're holding a seminar for journalists in Seattle to discuss the supposed perils of climate change. But in the minds of California farmers, government policies present a bigger threat, according to a survey by the University of California-Davis.

From the university:
California farmers feel more threatened by climate policy than they do by climate change, according to a new study from the University of California, Davis.

The study, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, found that the greatest climate risk Yolo County farmers believe they face in the future is not drought, water shortages, or temperature changes, but government regulations. [...]

Yolo County is a north Central Valley community that is home to UC Davis and a diverse mix of crops and livestock systems. More than 80 percent of land in Yolo County is devoted to agriculture.

UC Davis researchers analyzed 162 surveys returned by farmers and ranchers in 2011, and they conducted interviews with 11 farmers and two cooperative extension agents in 2010.

In Yolo County, 54 percent of farmers responding to the survey accepted that climate change was occurring. Of these, only 35 percent believed humans play a role in climate change.

Farmers were asked about their attitudes toward four specific environmental policies: pesticide use reporting (implemented in 1990), rice straw burning regulations (1991), a water quality conditional waiver program (2003), and stationary diesel engine emission regulations (2007). Farmers who had negative past experiences with environmental policies — viewing them as too costly or time-consuming, for example — showed less belief in climate change.

Farmers also tended to view policies that had been around the longest more positively, indicating that perceptions can become more favorable over time.

Several farmers viewed climate change as something in the far distant future, rather than as an immediate threat. They viewed the need to adapt to changing weather as a centuries-old, inherent part of farming.
[The photo is of rootstocks for almonds and stone fruits near Parlier, courtesy of UC-Davis.]

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