People tended to rate their government services and community services higher with increases in the scale of agriculture in their county. “Participation in clubs and organizations and citizens’ ratings of neighborliness also tended to increase with increases in the scale of agriculture and commercial hog production in the county,” Sapp said.
Most of the changes also were evident when looking specifically at commercial hog operations. The greater the scale of hog production in the county, the higher quality of life ratings from the community, the researchers concluded.
Scale of agriculture was defined as a composite of the average number of hogs per hog farm, the average number of cattle per cattle farm, total agricultural sales per farm, percent of sales in the county from large farms, total value of farmland in the county and the percent of land in crops in the county.
“This approach sought to capture aspects of larger-scale agriculture devoted to meat and raw commodity production in a county,” Sapp said.
The researchers used advanced statistical procedures to evaluate the effects of scale on a community’s quality of life while controlling for other key factors, such as a respondent’s age, sex, formal education and household income, along with measures of community racial diversity, retail activity and proximity to an urban area.
Although not all changes were consistent within a time period or across time, Sapp said the county-level data and local surveys overall supported the view that large-scale agriculture and hog production in particular have a modest but favorable effect on quality of life in Iowa rural towns.
So what about smaller scale agriculture?
“Our study focused entirely on effects of a larger scale of agriculture,” Sapp said. “We might anticipate that communities with the presence of both large- and small-scale agriculture would likely benefit the most from overall farming practices, but we don’t have the data to look at those relationships. Those are excellent questions for additional research.”
Sapp hopes to obtain funding to repeat the study in 2014 and continue to learn more about trends in the relationship between agriculture and rural communities’ quality of life.
Sapp and Sunblad are submitting results of the studies to peer-reviewed journals.
Source: Drovers (sister publication to Dairy Herd Management)