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Understanding Farmers’ Forecast Use from Their Beliefs, Values, Social Norms, and Perceived Obstacles

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  • + School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
  • | # Department of Geosciences, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
  • | @ Center for Instructional Innovation, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
  • | 4 Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
  • | * *Department of Psychology, and Nebraska Public Policy Center, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
  • | ++ Department of Agronomy, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
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Abstract

Although the accuracy of weather and climate forecasts is continuously improving and new information retrieved from climate data is adding to the understanding of climate variation, use of the forecasts and climate information by farmers in farming decisions has changed little. This lack of change may result from knowledge barriers and psychological, social, and economic factors that undermine farmer motivation to use forecasts and climate information. According to the theory of planned behavior (TPB), the motivation to use forecasts may arise from personal attitudes, social norms, and perceived control or ability to use forecasts in specific decisions. These attributes are examined using data from a survey designed around the TPB and conducted among farming communities in the region of eastern Nebraska and the western U.S. Corn Belt. There were three major findings: 1) the utility and value of the forecasts for farming decisions as perceived by farmers are, on average, around 3.0 on a 0–7 scale, indicating much room to improve attitudes toward the forecast value. 2) The use of forecasts by farmers to influence decisions is likely affected by several social groups that can provide “expert viewpoints” on forecast use. 3) A major obstacle, next to forecast accuracy, is the perceived identity and reliability of the forecast makers. Given the rapidly increasing number of forecasts in this growing service business, the ambiguous identity of forecast providers may have left farmers confused and may have prevented them from developing both trust in forecasts and skills to use them. These findings shed light on productive avenues for increasing the influence of forecasts, which may lead to greater farming productivity. In addition, this study establishes a set of reference points that can be used for comparisons with future studies to quantify changes in forecast use and influence.

* Agricultural Research Division, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Contribution Number 14486

Corresponding author address: Dr. Qi Hu, 237 L.W. Chase Hall, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68583-0728. Email: qhu2@unl.edu

Abstract

Although the accuracy of weather and climate forecasts is continuously improving and new information retrieved from climate data is adding to the understanding of climate variation, use of the forecasts and climate information by farmers in farming decisions has changed little. This lack of change may result from knowledge barriers and psychological, social, and economic factors that undermine farmer motivation to use forecasts and climate information. According to the theory of planned behavior (TPB), the motivation to use forecasts may arise from personal attitudes, social norms, and perceived control or ability to use forecasts in specific decisions. These attributes are examined using data from a survey designed around the TPB and conducted among farming communities in the region of eastern Nebraska and the western U.S. Corn Belt. There were three major findings: 1) the utility and value of the forecasts for farming decisions as perceived by farmers are, on average, around 3.0 on a 0–7 scale, indicating much room to improve attitudes toward the forecast value. 2) The use of forecasts by farmers to influence decisions is likely affected by several social groups that can provide “expert viewpoints” on forecast use. 3) A major obstacle, next to forecast accuracy, is the perceived identity and reliability of the forecast makers. Given the rapidly increasing number of forecasts in this growing service business, the ambiguous identity of forecast providers may have left farmers confused and may have prevented them from developing both trust in forecasts and skills to use them. These findings shed light on productive avenues for increasing the influence of forecasts, which may lead to greater farming productivity. In addition, this study establishes a set of reference points that can be used for comparisons with future studies to quantify changes in forecast use and influence.

* Agricultural Research Division, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Contribution Number 14486

Corresponding author address: Dr. Qi Hu, 237 L.W. Chase Hall, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68583-0728. Email: qhu2@unl.edu

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