September 1, 2021

(Ankeny, Iowa – September 1, 2021) Today, the Soil and Water Conservation Society released results from the first ever Conservation Practitioner Poll (CPP). The poll surveyed conservation practitioners in the Upper Mississippi River Basin who provide technical assistance, implement programs, and work directly with farmers to realize natural resource conservation goals on the landscape.

“Recent research has shown that farmers who interact regularly with conservation practitioners are more likely to adopt conservation practices,” says Chris Morris, who served on the CPP planning team as a PhD student in rural sociology and sustainable agriculture at Iowa State University and was formerly a 15-year conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. “With the CPP, we now have a research-based infrastructure to gain the perspective of conservation practitioners on an ongoing basis.”

“Despite the critical role that conservation practitioners play in helping farmers protect the nation’s natural resources, the voice of conservation practitioners is largely absent from policy and program discussions,” SWCS CEO Clare Lindahl says. “The results of this poll elevate insights from the boots on the ground on how to improve the conservation delivery system.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Nearly all conservation practitioners rated in-person work with farmers and landowners, whether in the office or in the field, as the most effective strategy for getting conservation on the ground, and 92% rated cost share programs as effective or highly effective tools to support conservation implementation.
  • Conservation practitioners are limited in their ability to build relationships with farmers by the burden of paperwork and program administration, employee turnover, inconsistent program rules and policies, and lack of communication and training on new rules.
  • State-level conservation programs were ranked highest for ease of administration, while the Conservation Stewardship Program, the nation’s largest conservation program, was rated most difficult to administer.
  • Just 18% of conservation practitioners indicated discussion of climate change helps get conservation on the ground in the region, but 69% are interested in training and information about climate-smart agriculture.

The Conservation Practitioner Poll 2021 Summary Report can be found on the Soil and Water Conservation Society’s website,   

The inaugural survey was conducted in spring 2021 by the Soil and Water Conservation Society with funding from the Walton Family Foundation and in partnership with Iowa State University (ISU) researchers Dr. J. Arbuckle, professor of rural sociology, Extension sociologist, and director of the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, and PhD student Chris Morris.



About SWCS

For seventy-six years, the Soil and Water Conservation Society has been the premier international organization for professionals who practice and advance the science and art of natural resource conservation. We believe sustainable land and water management is essential to the continued security of the earth and its people. Our goal is to cultivate an organization of informed, dynamic individuals whose contributions create a bright future for agriculture, the environment, and society. The Soil and Water Conservation Society is headquartered in Ankeny, Iowa, with chapters across the United States and Canada.

For More Information:

Clare Lindahl, CEO
Soil and Water Conservation Society

« Back