Environmental and social concerns about the use of capital-intensive agricultural technologies have fueled questions about the process, impact, and future direction of the system that is largely responsible for developing these technologies; that is, publicly funded agricultural research at U.S. land-grant universities. Although social scientists have analyzed the public agricultural research system and farmers' attitudes towards various capital-intensive agricultural technologies, there has been less research on farmers' attitudes toward publicly funded research that focuses specifically on lower-input agricultural technologies that contribute to sustainability goals. This research examines farmers' attitudes toward publicly funded research on one such low-input technology, deep-bedded hoop structures for swine production. With lower capital costs and purported environmental and management advantages, hoop structures have been promoted to and adopted by growing numbers of Midwest swine producers. The study hypotheses draw on published theories of the treadmill of technology, and of innovation adoption and diffusion. Using a 1997 mail survey of Iowa swine producers (n = 298), we examined factors associated with producers' attitudes toward publicly funded research on hoop structures and found that 40% were supportive of the research, 40% were opposed, and 20% were undecided. Of the variables examined, the producer's assessment of hoop structures' contribution to sustainability, number of external knowledge sources about hoop structures, and formal education were each significantly related to support for publicly funded hoop-structure research. Two farm structure variables, marketings and percentage of income from farming, were not significantly related in this study. Future research on farmers' attitudes toward public sector agricultural research should take account of farmers' views of potential impacts of the specific technologies being researched and developed, and the nature of farmers' ties to the land-grant university system. This study clarifies the importance of farmers' perceptions and concerns about specific agricultural technologies in directing public agricultural research planning and policy toward broader sustainability goals.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)