University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture
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Abstract

Access to information is critical to improving production efficiency, but little is known about how farmers are informed on the policy or issues influencing programs related to farming. This research sought to determine the sources of communication used by farmers and ranchers to form opinions about agricultural policy and candidates, identify the issues important in voting, and their level of participation in the political process. Face-to-face interaction was the preferred form of communication in farm organization meetings, with friends, or farm agencies. Magazines were the preferred source of print communication, and university/extension websites were preferred for internet sources. Broadcast media and social media were the least preferred sources for policy information, yet were consulted more often for information about candidates. Friends and family were also the preferred source used to gather information about candidates, along with meet-the-candidate events. The Farm Bureau was the most frequently preferred source of published information. Farmers and ranchers have higher than average levels of voter turnout and typically prefer to take political action by writing letters to their elected representatives. The candidate’s values were the most important characteristic when choosing to support a candidate. While farm advocacy groups are producing information on policy and candidates, this information is frequently shared through friends. Additional research is needed to determine the trusted opinion-leaders who convey the information from community meetings or publications to other producers through face-to-face interactions.

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