Are Farmers of the Middle Distinctively “Good Stewards?” Evidence from the Missouri Farm Poll, 2006
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This paper considers the question of whether middle-scale farmers, which are defined as producers generating between $100,000 and $250,000 in sales annually, are better agricultural stewards than small and large-scale producers. The study is motivated by the argument of some commentators that farmers of this class ought to be protected in part because of the unique attitudes and values they possess regarding what constitutes a “good farmer”. The paper presents results of a survey of Missouri farmers designed to assess farmer attitudes and values regarding a variety of indicators of farmer stewardship, such as the most important issues in agriculture, environment and treatment of farm animals, perspectives on the past and future of agriculture, and ethical behavior. No evidence is found that farmers-of-the-middle are particularly noteworthy in these regards. Evidence is found, however, that middle-scale farmers are more pessimistic and anxious about their role in the future of agriculture.