The public’s perception of the water conservation practices of farmers and ranchers are far higher than that of policymakers.
Florida Farm Bureau, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Dairy Farmers were interested in the public’s perception of agricultural water use. Through a partnership with the UF/IFAS PIE Center, the organizations learned that the public really does see the farmer as the first environmentalist.
According to the July 2015 study conducted by the UF/IFAS PIE Center, “Perception of Agricultural Water Use: Comparing the General Public and Decision Makers,” at least 70 percent of Florida residents strongly agree that farms conserve water, protect the environment and preserve open spaces.
However, only 35 percent of local government officials agreed that farmers conserve water.
The public agreed that farmers are concerned about water when making decisions, and nearly 80 percent thought farmers used sound reasoning when making decisions about water. In comparison, only 54 percent of local officials agreed that farmers felt concerned about water when making decisions.
While 40 percent of local decision makers were aware of best management practices (BMPs), they had lower opinions of how Florida farmers practiced BMPs. Only 19 percent of the public were aware of BMPS, but 93 percent were more likely to buy products made with BMPs.
“It is critical that we help educate our decision makers at the local level of the best management practices our farmers and ranchers are implementing on a daily basis to conserve water,” said FFB Government and Community Affairs Director Charles Shinn. “There has never been a better time to communicate to the public and to decision makers at the county level on what agriculture is doing to protect the environment.”
Programs such as the County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship, or CARES, are excellent tools to help share the stories of farmers and ranchers who are protecting land and water resources.
For more information on the research and to review recommendations, visit http://www.piecenter.com/issues/water/agricultural-irrigation/.
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