Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll: Farmers support Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund

In 2010, a majority of Iowans voted for a constitutional amendment that established a Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. The purpose of the fund is to provide resources to invest in the conservation of Iowa’s land and water. The amendment stipulated that the trust fund would be financed through a future three-eighths of one percent increase in sales tax, which has not yet occurred.

The 2010 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll survey found substantial support for public expenditure on parks, trails, soil and water conservation, and similar investments in the state’s natural resources.

A decade later, the 2021 Farm Poll survey examined farmer perspectives on the trust fund and related issues again.

The survey results pointed to substantial support for the Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. A strong majority of respondents—56%—agreed that the trust fund should be funded, compared to 12% who disagreed (32% selected uncertain). More than two-thirds agreed with the statement, “I believe that investing in natural resources and outdoor recreation can help the economy,” and 63% agreed with the item, “In general, parks, trails and other natural resources-related recreational opportunities provide economic benefits to rural areas.”

A further 49% agreed that Iowa farmers would benefit from increased conservation funding, and 46% agreed that the trust fund would help farmers with soil and water conservation activities.

“The trust fund could be a really big boost for rural areas, helping to invest in improved natural resources and recreational opportunities for local residents and visitors alike,” said J. Arbuckle, director of the Farm Poll. “Farmers recognize that such investments can lead to economic benefits for their rural communities.”

A plurality of 42% of survey respondents agreed that they would support raising the sales tax to fund the trust fund if increases were offset by equal or greater tax cuts, compared to 23% who disagreed and 34% uncertain. Overall, the results indicate that Iowa’s farmers support the idea of the trust fund and expenditures to improve Iowa’s natural resources and believe such investments are good for the economy and provide economic benefits to rural areas.

“It would be great for the state of Iowa if we could commit to funding the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund,” added Arbuckle. “Neighboring states Minnesota and Missouri have really benefited from their trust funds’ investments in recreational opportunities and soil and water conservation, especially rural areas.”

Known also as the “Farm Poll,” the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll survey has been conducted since 1982, and is the longest-running survey of its kind in the nation. Questionnaires were mailed in February and March 2021, and 1,095 farmers responded to the statewide survey.

Other topics covered in the 2021 Farm Poll summary include community vitality, the impacts of COVID-19, renewable energy, carbon markets, and use of various media for information and entertainment.