AMES, Iowa – Research has shown a steep decline in North America’s monarch butterfly population. The 2016 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll examined ways farmers might help reverse that decline through habitat restoration. The survey’s questions examined farmer awareness, concern and willingness to support monarch habitat improvement.
“The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium is really ramping up activities to help the species in a number of ways, including working with farmers and others in the agricultural community,” said J. Gordon Arbuckle, associate professor of sociology at Iowa State University and director of the Farm Poll. “We needed to know if farmers were aware of and concerned about population declines, and whether they might lend a hand by improving habitat.”
Eighty-one percent of survey respondents reported they were aware of the monarch butterfly’s population decline. About 65 percent were concerned about the decline, and 18 percent checked the “don’t know” box. Similarly, 42 percent indicated they would like to learn how to improve monarch habitat, while 23 percent weren’t sure.
Farmers were asked if they might be willing to establish and maintain a small amount (1/3-1 acre) of monarch habitat on their farmland. Of the farmers who responded, 38 percent said they would be willing to establish and maintain habitat if they could receive 100 percent of the cost of planting and management. Twenty-one percent said they would participate if they could receive 50 percent cost-share and 14 percent would be willing to establish habitat with their own money. Between a quarter and a third indicated that they did not know whether they would be interested or not.
The poll also asked farmers how many acres they would be willing to plant if they could receive 100 percent of the costs of planting and management. Fifty-one percent of respondents selected “don’t know,” 13 percent wrote “0” and 11 percent did not answer the question. Among the 25 percent who provided an estimate, the average response was 4.8 acres.
“In general, farmers have a lot more capacity to help monarchs than the rest of us, because they have land,” said Arbuckle. “The results show that many farmers are interested in taking steps to help improve habitat. But the results also suggest a lot of farmers want to learn more before committing land to the effort. So that points to a need for more outreach.”
The Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll has been in existence since 1982, surveying Iowa farmers on issues of importance to agricultural stakeholders. It is the longest-running survey of its kind in the nation.