Examining Field Crop Farmers’ Climate Change Perceptions, Adaptation Strategies, and Resilience in Florida: A spatial econometric approach

Progress report for GS21-235

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2021: $15,775.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2023
Grant Recipient: University of Florida
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. Jorge Ruiz-Menjivar
University of Florida
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Project Information

Summary:

Climate variability poses a direct threat to Florida's agricultural production and sustained growth. The detrimental effects of extreme weather events and unusual weather patterns often result in revenue losses, decreased crop yields, decreased soil quality, and the spread of pests and diseases. To respond to climate change adverse effects, farmers often engage in different adaptation measures and implement climate resilience strategies. The purpose of this project is to examine the effects of climate change perceptions, attitudes, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control, and community-based networks on climate change adaptation and reliance among Florida field-crop farmers. We evaluate the impact of community-based networks and their interactions with climate change perceptions and attitudes on adaptation and climate resilience strategies. Also, we investigate the role of climate change perceptions and community-based networks on climate change adaptation and resilience by farmers' intersectionality, including age, sex, race, median income, and median farm size. Continued stakeholder involvement for project activities and evaluation are integrated through an independent Advisory Council. The proposed project supports the development of Florida's sustainable agriculture by expanding our understanding of significant social and psychological predictors of climate change adaptation and resilience behaviors. Findings from this project will provide further guidance for the formulation and implementation of future adaptation programs and climate resilience policies in agricultural production.

Project Objectives:
  1. Evaluate the effects of Florida field-crop farmers' perceptions of climate variability and attitudes on adaptation and climate resilience strategies
  2. Examine the impact of community-based networks and their interactions with climate change perceptions and attitudes on adaptation and climate resilience strategies.
  3. Analyze the role of climate change perceptions and community-based networks on climate change adaptation and resilience by farmers' intersectionality.
  4. Incorporate stakeholder' recommendations in the execution of project activities and disseminate findings on climate change adaptation and climate resilience among Florida field-crop farmers.

Cooperators

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  • Dr. Angie Lindsey
  • Sandra Anderson
  • Libbie Johnson
  • Keith Wynn
  • Dr. Kevin Korus
  • Dr. Kevin Ash
  • Dr. Trent Blare
  • Dr. Mickie Swisher

Research

Materials and methods:

Objectives 1, 2 and 3 

Institutional Review Board (IRB), Data collection and Instrument development  

  • This project is collaborating with the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education (PIE) to sample and collect survey responses from 300 field-crop farmers in Florida. We have met with our partners in PIE and discussed the sampling approach and distribution of the survey via Qualtrics and mail. 
  • We obtained the IRB approval (IRB#202102640) from the University of Florida on December 17, 2021; this IRB approval is in relation to the survey that will be used to collect the data for the activities in objectives 1, 2, and 3.  
  • We have developed a draft of the survey in March 2022. The instrument contained the following parts: 
    • Farmers’ perceptions on climate variability. 
    • Theory of planned behavior and protection motivation theory constructs (e.g., attitude toward adaptation strategies, self-efficacy, subjective norms). 
    • Social network measurements. 
    • A sequence of climate-adaptive agricultural strategies (such as flood-tolerant varieties, conservation tillage, and different planting dates). 
    • A subjective index of measuring field-crop farmers’ climate resilience. 
    • Demographics and farm characteristics. 

Objective 4 

IRB, recruitment of AC members, and pretest of the survey with AC 

  • We obtained IRB approval to facilitate focus groups and individual interviews with AC members (IRB#202102640).
  • We have recruited members for our Advisory Council (AC). Three Extension Faculty members at UF/IFAS have graciously agreed to serve as members. We are actively recruiting two farmers to serve in the AC—the Extension County faculty in the AC are assisting us with that task.  
  • We have established an ad-hoc committee composed of three faculty members at UF with research expertise in regional climate change (Dr. Kevin Ash-Geography), agricultural economics (Dr. Trent Blare-Food and Resource Economics), and sustainable agriculture (Dr. Mickie Swisher- Center for Sustainable and Organic Food System
  • The role of the AC is to provide targeted consensus-based inputs for the refinement and improvement of research activities and detailed reviews of progress for each of the research goals, objectives, and results. Consensus-based recommendations will ensure scientific and methodological rigor, reduce research bias, and enhance research outcomes and the potential quality of findings. So far, Extension Faculty members in the AC have provided or are currently reviewing (cognitive pretest) the relevance, quality, and content of the questions included in the survey.  
Research results and discussion:

Preliminary Results from pretest of instrument with Extension Faculty: We received insightful feedback from extension faculty on ways to approach and ask question related to climate variability in the context of agricultural productions. Because there is a diversity in views and opinions about extreme whether, its causes and effects, Extension faculty recommended that we are explicit to include statements in our survey that allude to the nature and purpose of the study: that is, we are interested in exploring the perceptions about climate change/variability among farmers in Florida. We have adopted those suggestions in our study. We have relied in validated instruments used in previous studies (Mase et al, 2017; Arbuckle et al, 2015; Prokopy et al., 2015) and included intro statements like the following:

"There is increasing discussion about climate variability and its potential implications for agricultural production. Please select the statement that best reflects your beliefs about climate variability."

Participation Summary
2 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

None to date. We should note, however, that our project includes deliverables that relate to the dissemination of findings (see Activity 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4 in the Narrative of the project). Based on our timeline, these activities will be accomplished towards the end of the project, August 2023.  

“Activity 4.2 Share research findings with local and state stakeholders. We will produce a webinar to share the results and overarching conclusions of this project. The webinar will be available for on-demand viewing through the UF/IFAS Center for Sustainable and Organic Food Systems and will be promoted via the Center's listserv. In addition, we will present our findings to the Florida S-SARE Board meeting, which is composed of Florida farmers, growers' association representatives, non-profit leaders, and researchers. Activity 4.3: Present research findings at state and national conferences. We will deliver conference presentations at the annual Extension Professional Association of Florida Conference and the Professional Agricultural Workers Conference in Tuskegee, AL. Activity 4.4: Submit research article to a peer-reviewed journal. We will prepare and submit a manuscript for publication in a top-tier, first quartile refereed journal devoted to climate change and agricultural sciences. This publication's three target outlets are the Journal of Cleaner Production, Science of the Total Environment Journal, and Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems).” 

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Our project supports the development of Florida's sustainable agriculture by expanding our understanding of social and cognitive predictors—whether drivers or barriers—of climate change adaptation and resilience among field-crop farmers in Florida. Findings from this project will provide further guidance for the formulation and implementation of future adaptation programs and climate resilience policies in agriculture, especially as the United States aims to cut 50% of greenhouse gas emissions in less than a decade. We anticipate that our findings will inform policymakers and agricultural educators on predictive factors to account for and capitalize for the design of interventions and the accelerating diffusion of initiatives related to climate change adaptation and reliance. For example, the project will document a baseline of adaptation strategies and intensity adoption by Florida farmers, including the use of high residue cover crops, conservation tillage, sod-based rotation, climate-resilient irrigation systems (e.g., Center pivot, micro, and subsurface drip irrigation systems), plastic mulch, drought-tolerant crops and forage, the use of climate information and decision support systems, among others9. Moreover, our results will shed light on how climate change perceptions shape attitudes, intention, and ultimately adaptation behavior among Florida farmers. Our project has important implications for sustainable agriculture from the perspective of community-based networks. Community-based networks, such as agricultural extension organizations and growers' associations, enhance economic sustainability and environmental sustainability in agriculture. Community-based networks are often effective support systems for information and knowledge exchange about validated adaptation technologies and practices, improving members' response capacity to climate change (i.e., climate resilience) and reducing risk, uncertainty, and potential losses. One of our project's key and promising components is examining climate change adaptation by farmers' intersectionality (i.e., network membership, gender, age, race/ethnicity, median farm size, median farm income). These findings may provide pivotal information on those groups who are the most vulnerable with the least adaptive capacity to climate change effects and who may be the target audience for prospective programs or interventions. Importantly, this project will document whether the interactions between social networks and perceptions may act as effective mechanisms and conduits to change attitudes, intention, and adaptation behavior and whether these interactions vary by farmers' attributes. Take all together, this project is relevant to Florida's sustainable agriculture as it promises to offer further insight into psychological antecedents and social mechanisms that may lead to adaptation behaviors among Florida farmers and enhance the climate resilience of Florida agricultural and food systems. 

Knowledge Gained:

We do not have any specific figures for learning outcomes yet. Nonetheless, part of our project includes sharing our findings with local and state stakeholders (see activities 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4). Particularly for the webinar proposed under activity 4.2, we plan to include an evaluation (exit survey) that will collect data on the usefulness of information presented and will measure knowledge gained. This webinar will be developed once we have findings for research activities under objectives 1, 2, and 3.  

Recommendations:

None to date. 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.