Upper midwest farmer perceptions: Too much uncertainty about impacts of climate change to justify changing current agricultural practices

L. W. Morton, G. Roesch-McNally, A. K. Wilke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


To be uncertain is to be unsure or have doubt. Results from a random sample survey show the majority (89.5%) of farmers in the Upper Midwest perceived there was too much uncertainty about the impacts of climate to justify changing their agricultural practices and strategies, despite scientific evidence regarding the causes and potential consequences of climate change. This study uses random sample survey data (n = 4,778) and in-depth interviews (n = 159) of Upper Midwest farmers to better understand factors that underlie their uncertainty and reluctance to take adaptive action. Results reveal that farmers' uncertainty about projected climate change impacts on their production systems is influenced by their beliefs about climate change, experiences with drought, concern about heat stress on crops, and agricultural information networks. Findings suggest a combination of insufficient information and normative influences on climate beliefs are influencing farmer uncertainty. In cases where uncertainty is caused by insufficient information, improved farmer access to and use of historical crop and local climate records, as well as decision support tools that simulate different climate scenarios and their impacts on production, could improve estimates of future risks. However, more information may be insufficient to address claims of uncertainty when differing political and cultural norms contest the parameters of climate change. This suggests that scientific knowledge must be linked to social values and beliefs and trusted agricultural networks for widespread adaptive management to a changing climate to occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-225
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Soil and Water Conservation
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research is funded by the regional collaborative project supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Award No. 2011-68002-30190, Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project: Climate Change, Mitigation, and Adaptation in Corn-based Cropping Systems.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Adaptive management
  • Beliefs
  • Climate change
  • Information sources
  • Uncertainty
  • Upper Midwest farmers


Dive into the research topics of 'Upper midwest farmer perceptions: Too much uncertainty about impacts of climate change to justify changing current agricultural practices'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this