Voters in Key Farm Bill States Support New Approaches to the Food and Farm Bill

Polling Data Shows Broad Support for Tackling Climate Change, Protecting Workers, Combatting Hunger, and Helping Small and Midsize Farmers Compete

Published Jul 17, 2023

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As Congress negotiates the 2023 Food and Farm Bill, voters across the political spectrum nationally and in four agricultural states—Colorado, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania—support policies that would buffer farms from the effects of climate change and provide better workplace protections for food and farmworkers, among other issues. That’s according to new national and state polls of registered voters conducted by RABA Research.

Lawmakers on the Senate and House agriculture committees responsible for crafting the Food and Farm Bill—including Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Representatives Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Yadira Caraveo (D-Colo.), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), David Scott (D-Ga.), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), and Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.)—should heed the results of the poll, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, which commissioned it.

“With the climate crisis driving dangerous weather across the country this summer, it’s no wonder voters see the need for Congress to act,” said Karen Perry Stillerman, deputy director of the Food and Environment Program at UCS. “People also see clearly how big corporations have hijacked our food system, endangering workers, squeezing small and midsize farmers, and leaving too many hungry, and they want a new Food and Farm Bill that works for all of us.”

In a poll of voters across the country, voters expressed strong support for programs that help farmers adapt to and protect against losses due to extreme weather and for greater workplace protections in farming and food industries. Further surveys of voters in four key agriculture states found:

  • Almost 70% of registered voters in Colorado, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania—and 82% of voters in those states with a farmer in the house—identified crop failures from extreme weather as a threat to their state. Overwhelming majorities, 82% of voters nationally and as high as 90% in Michigan, supported investing in programs that help farmers proactively adapt and protect their land and crops against losses from flooding and drought. One such federal program, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), is highly effective and popular with farmers, but chronically underfunded. The Inflation Reduction Act made key climate-focused investments in CSP and similar programs that must be maintained in the Food and Farm Bill.

  • Voters in the four states are highly motivated in their support for programs that would help farmers adapt to extreme weather and mitigate climate change. Majorities in Colorado (69%), Georgia (66%), Michigan (65%) and Pennsylvania (70%) said they would be more likely to support a candidate for office who offered ideas along those lines.

  • Large majorities in each of the four states, upwards of 76% of voters, identified corporate consolidation that squeezes small and midsize farmers and food businesses as a threat in their state. Notably, that jumped to 89% of households with a farmer. Majorities in every state, with a high of 89% in Pennsylvania, supported increasing investments that help small and midsize farmers compete with large corporate agribusiness.

  • Majorities of voters in the four states – as many as 64% in Georgia and 70% of voters with a farmer in the house across states – said the risk of illness and injury to essential food and farm industry workers is a threat to communities in their state. Overwhelming majorities in all four states – as large 87% in Michigan and Pennsylvania – and 80% nationally supported more and better workplace protections for workers in food and farming industries.

  • Very large majorities of voters supported programs that help farmers protect water quality and keep more carbon and nutrients in their soil, from 86% in Georgia to a high of 88% in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Majorities of voters in each state – as many as 68% in Michigan – and 66% of voters with a farmer in the house said water pollution caused by agricultural runoff is a threat to their state.

RABA Research also polled voters about food prices and food assistance. Overwhelming majorities of voters in each state – as high as 94% in Michigan and Colorado – said high consumer food prices are a threat to their state. A majority of voters across party lines also expressed concern about low-income households having trouble accessing food assistance programs, from a high of 79% in Georgia and Pennsylvania to 76% in Michigan and 74% in Colorado. Notably, 72% of Republican respondents saw lack of access to food assistance as a threat to communities in their state.

The poll findings speak directly to one of the most contentious issues in Food and Farm Bill negotiations: increasing work requirements in the nation’s largest and most effective anti-hunger program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Although the program already has work requirements in place and evidence shows that most SNAP recipients who can work already do—with low wages and unstable hours rather than lack of jobs keeping many working households from being able to afford enough food—some House Republicans have called for expanding work requirements. RABA’s polling shows that voters across the four states largely reject such action: a plurality of voters (41%) say Congress should focus more or all of their energy on making sure people have enough to eat, while fewer than a quarter (23%) said Congress should focus more or all their energy on making sure people receiving food assistance are working.

The state-level polls were conducted June 6-19 and included 2,000 voters across the four states. The national poll was conducted July 5-6 and included 1,000 people, including 813 registered voters.