COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio farmers may have varied opinions regarding polices and issues surrounding the 2007 Farm Bill, but they agree that the continuation of farm programs is important to their overall financial stability, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economic survey.
Nearly half of the surveyed farmers stated that their financial situation would be worse off in five years if farm programs were eliminated in the 2007 Farm Bill. Financial expectations related to the Farm Bill were just one of a series of questions that Ohio State University agricultural economists tackled in the 2007 Agricultural, Food, and Public Policy Preference Survey.
The survey was conducted in November and December of 2005 by Carl Zulauf, McCormick professor of Agricultural Marketing and Policy; Barry Ward, Ohio State University Extension agricultural economist; and graduate student Allison Specht, all from the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics. Three thousand Ohio farmers were surveyed; 662 responses were deemed usable for the results. The Ohio survey was part of a national survey commissioned by the Farm Foundation, with 27 states participating.
The following is a breakdown of major findings and significant results:
• For Ohio farmers, the goals of the 2007 Farm Bill extend beyond farm income and risk management, two aspects most associated with previous Farm Bills. "It's important to note that for both goals, over half of the farmers surveyed supported them, but of the eight goals listed, farm income and risk fall at the bottom of the list," said Zulauf. The goals that farmers most support include: assuring safe, secure and affordable food; reducing dependency on non-renewable energy; and enhancing opportunities for small and beginning farms. Other goals listed are increasing global competitiveness, contributing to protecting the environment and enhancing rural communities.
• No consensus exits regarding which crop support programs should be cut if cuts are indeed needed. "I don't believe the budget will be a major issue given the current state of the economy, but what this finding is saying is that if the budget were to become part of the discussions, farmers can't agree on how they would go about cutting programs. They don't want to have to cut programs that they are getting a benefit from," said Zulauf. "This is a self-interest mentality and is important in understanding the dynamics of farmers' opinions in these kinds of surveys." Zulauf said that the value of a program is closely tied to funding support. For example, a net total of 70 percent of Ohio farmers who receive loan deficiency payments would maintain this program. In contrast, only 3 percent of Ohio farmers who do not receive loan deficiency programs would maintain the loan deficiency program. "Understanding the role of self-interest provides a much deeper insight into what current programs Ohio farmers value."
• Ohio farmers are divided on whether farm program payments are capitalized into land values. "This has become a big issue over the past five years or so. Government payments are intended to provide an income safety net for farmers, but some argue that programs such as loan deficiency payments, direct payments and counter-cyclical payments are bid into the price of the land, thus contributing to higher land prices," said Zulauf. According to the survey results, Ohio farmers have varied opinions as to whether or not that capitalization is occurring. "It's an interesting result, and could mean a number of things. Perhaps farmers haven't bought land recently and lack that personal experience, or non-farm values, such as urbanization, are driving land values in Ohio," said Zulauf. "For an economist, it's a fascinating finding because there are few, if any, economists out there,who don't believe that a non-trivial portion of farm program payments are being capitalized into land values."
Other survey results worth noting include:
• Ohio farmers widely support technical and financial assistance for addressing environmental problems associated with farming. "Over the years, there has been a shift among farmers toward the acceptance of financial incentives to address a variety of environmental problems," said Zulauf. According to the survey, water quality protection and soil erosion control topped the list with 59 percent and 56 percent, respectively, of Ohio farmers supporting the provision of both technical and financial assistance.
• Farmer support of free trade agreements is mixed. "Historically, farmers have always been among the biggest supporters of free trade agreements," said Zulauf. "This change in attitude could have significant policy implications."
• Ohio farmers want labeling and traceability explored as food system options. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed strongly agree or agree government should implement mandatory labeling that identifies country of origin on food products. Sixty-six percent believe the government should increase efforts to improve traceability of food from consumers back to producers.
To learn more about the survey, log on to http://aede.osu.edu/people/publications.php?user=zulauf.1.