New Research: 900 U.S. Farmers Weigh In On Water Management Practices

The study has yielded several key findings on what farmers know about water-related issues, their concern around water resources, and conservation actions they take. ( File Photo )

Kinsie Rayburn is a Conservation Knowledge Officer with Farm Journal's Trust In Food. Learn more at


“Without water there is no food.” –Nebraska farmer

Water challenges play a central role in five of the top 10 risks currently facing humanity. Of those top five risks, water challenges are central to four, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2019 report.

Many of these challenges are human-driven: climate change induced increases in extreme weather events, poor public infrastructure management leading to breakdowns, and pollution derived from human society—including from agriculture. These challenges are complex, multifaceted and will take a systems-based thinking approach to solve.

One clear pathway to addressing and mitigating water challenges is to engage farmers to continuously improve water management practices.

In 2019, Trust In Food, in collaboration with American Public Media’s (APM) The Watermain, conducted research into farmer perceptions of water. This research yielded several key findings on what farmers know about water-related issues, their concern around water resources, and conservation actions they take to protect water resources that their operations unequivocally rely on. Overall, perspectives from more than 900 farmer-respondents, representing all nine farm production regions and 43 states, were analyzed.

The resulting report, U.S. Farmer Perspectives on Water: A communicator's road map for engaging with U.S. farmers around water challenges, is meant to serve as a way for water communicators to strengthen relationships between farmers, the agri-food value chain and the public to secure clean water, in perpetuity, for everyone.

The report encourages communication towards engagement tactics that:

Strengthen the foundation farmers need to serve as solutions to water challenges.

  • Build awareness and understanding among farmers of the outsized positive impact they can have on the health and wellbeing of the nation’s water resources and infrastructure.

Engage with farmers through mitigation and resilience-building programs aimed at minimizing water challenges.

  • Build on the high baseline levels of concern farmers have for water issues to engage through geographically and culturally targeted tactics.

Empower farmers to maintain and improve their role as a solution to water challenges.    

  • Equip farmers with the tools, education and systemic frameworks they need to continuously improve the concept of agriculture as a solution to water-related issues.
  • Acknowledge the challenges and celebrate the successful implementation of practices that improve downstream water quality to prevent farmers from being misunderstood or mischaracterized.

To learn more and read the full report, visit:

While Trust In Food captured Farmer Perspectives on water, the APM Research Lab, The Water Main, conducted research into the nation’s connection to water. This is the first nationally representative survey of its kind and is a useful tool for researchers, journalists and advocates in gauging how in-tune the rest of the country is with the water-related challenges we face today. More information on data from the APM survey can be found at