ST. LOUIS, Mo. - A survey of numerous agricultural topics shows young adults in Midwest farming have more confidence in federal agencies than older farmers.
The "Farmers of Tomorrow: Generation Z's Future in Agriculture," was funded and conducted by Osborn Barr (abbreviated as "O+B"), a St. Louis, Mo., marketing communications firm that handles large agricultural clients. O+B received survey responses from about 300 people across several Midwest states earlier this fall. Surveyors defined Gen Z as ages 18 to 22, with an immediate family member farming. "Boom XY" includes 28- to 74-year-olds, which encompasses Baby Boomers, Generation X, and millennial ages.
Most respondents were from Iowa, Missouri and Illinois, but some were from North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Surveys went out to young people involved in FFA and to older people who are FFA alumni.
Gen Z had an "overwhelmingly positive outlook on government entities, according to the survey, while their elders had a less favorable view. Separate questions asked their opinions on the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration. Specific ratings of the agencies by age: USDA: Gen Z, 85 percent; Boom XY, 60 percent; EPA: Gen Z, 45 percent, Boom XY, 25 percent; FDA, Gen Z, 60 percent, Boom XY, 29 percent.
Richard Fordyce, a farmer from Bethany, Mo., in the northwest part of the state, and a government official, is chairman of O+B's advisory council. Fordyce was recently named Missouri's state executive director for the federal Farm Service Agency and recently served four years as Missouri director of the Department of Agriculture.
Fordyce said he was surprised that 64 percent of farm-raised Gen Zers view restricted immigration policy favorably, compared to 35 percent of older farmers.
"I think agriculture forever has advocated a common sense immigration approach that revolves around labor needs. We have immigrant populations that are doing a lot of jobs that Americans don't want to do or that an immigrant labor force is really good at," he said.
Respondents addressed several other specific areas:
• Farm succession: 54 percent of Gen Zs raised on the farm expected to return to the farm; 71 percent of Boom XY members believe one of their children will return to farm. Many Gen Z responders said pursuing an ag-related degree is a "means of remaining involved in agriculture" and that they require a "steady" paycheck, rather than sporadic farm income.
• Brand names: 78 percent of Gen Z felt brand names are "important" when choosing farm products; Boom XY, 90 percent.
• Information sources: Gen Z tends to get information from peers and social media, cable TV and ag radio. The Boom XY crowd favors ag print publications, network radio and manufacturer websites, although details weren't released.
Asked about their impressions of various technologies and institutions, the percentages saying they were "somewhat positive" or greater were as follows:
• Bioag technologies: Gen Z, 78 percent; Boom XY, 65 percent.
• Herbicide technology: Gen Z, 80 percent; Boom XY, 45 percent.
• Insecticide technology: Gen Z, 80 percent; Boom XY, 60 percent.
• Automated ag equipment: Gen Z, 78 percent; Boom XY, 78 percent.
• Existing GMO technology: Gen Z, 85 percent; Boom XY, 70 percent.
• Organic farming practices: Gen Z, 28 percent; Boom XY, 35 percent.
• Sustainable agriculture practices: Gen Z, 85 percent; Boom XY, 80 percent.
An O+B spokesperson said that the company expects to go in-depth with subsequent surveys and go into topics such as precision technology, general food innovation and rural issues. O+B's larger clients include Monsanto Company, the United Soybean Board, Verdesian Life Sources and Merck & Co., but those companies were not involved in the survey project, the spokesperson said.