U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), a farmer- and rancher-led organization representing virtually all aspects of agriculture, released findings of two national surveys about food and how it is grown and raised.
U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), Chesterfield, Mo., a farmer- and rancher-led organization representing virtually all aspects of agriculture, released findings of two national surveys about food and how it is grown and raised during "The Food Dialogues," a town hall-style discussion that kicked off Sept. 22 in New York; Washington, D.C.; Fair Oaks, Ind.; and Davis, Calif.
The surveys focused separately on the opinions, attitudes and questions consumers and farmers/ranchers have about the current and future state of how food is grown and raised in the United States. Results revealed that lack of access to information, as well as no interest or passion for the topic, have divided consumer opinion on the direction of agriculture.
"Americans have a lot of questions about where their food comes from, how it is raised and if it is good for their health long-term," says Bob Stallman, chairman of USFRA and president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, D.C. "USFRA commissioned two separate surveys to first ask farmers and ranchers what they wished Americans could have more information about where their food comes from. We then asked consumers what questions they have on the same topic. The findings of both surveys indicate there is an opportunity for more dialogue between farmers, ranchers and the American public about how food is grown and raised in the U.S."
Highlights of the research include:
• While nearly all Americans agree that food production is important to the success of the country, they are split over whether it is going in the right or wrong direction.
• Consumers think about food production constantly, yet know very little about how food is brought to the dinner table.
• Overwhelmingly, farmers and ranchers share the same values as consumers on issues related to environmental stewardship and animal care.
Additional consumer survey highlights
The purpose of the consumer survey was to ask Americans what additional information they want to learn more about related to how food is grown and raised in the United States. The survey revealed that consumers have become disconnected from their food, yet think about the subject regularly.
According to the survey findings:
• 72% of consumers know nothing or very little about farming or ranching
• 69% of consumers think about food production at least somewhat often
• 70% say purchase decisions are affected by how food is grown and raised, with three-quarters (72%) of Americans saying they think about this topic while purchasing groceries
• 42% or two-in-five Americans say the way that food is grown and raised has improved in the last 10 years, while a slightly smaller group says it has worsened (37%). Those who say the way that food is grown and raised has improved cite food safety (22%) and food quality (17%), whereas respondents who said the way food is grown and raised has worsened also cite food safety (21%) and food quality (21%)
• Of all the aspects of how food is grown and raised, Americans are most satisfied with the availability of healthy foods (73%) and food safety standards (66%)
• One in five consumers who say food production has worsened in the last 10 years cite environmental impact as the top area of demise
• 79% of consumers say producing healthy choices for all consumers is very important for farmers and ranchers to consider when planning farming and ranching practices
Consumers also were asked to identify the Top 5 topics they want more information about. Responses included:
1. How chemicals are used in farming/ranching
2. How pesticides are used in farming/ranching
3. Food safety standards
4. Effect of government regulations on farming/ranching
5. How antibiotics are used and genetic engineering in crops
Additional farmer/rancher survey highlights
The goal of the farmer/rancher survey was to identify topics that farmers and ranchers wished Americans had more information about when it comes to food and how it is grown and raised in the United States. According to the survey, farmers and ranchers said the top misconception they need to overcome as an industry is that a few "bad actors" are representative of the entire industry.
Furthermore, farmers and ranchers identified the effect of pesticides, antibiotics and fertilizers on food as the most important priorities they should address when communicating with consumers.
Additional findings included:
• 86% of farmers/ranchers responded that the average consumer has little to no knowledge about modern farming/ranching
• 58% of respondents felt consumers have a completely inaccurate perception of farming and ranching
• Nearly all farmers and ranchers say that protecting the environment (99%) and practicing humane animal care (96%) are very or somewhat important goals or practices related to their business
• 80% of farmers/ranchers say that consumers have little to no knowledge about proper care of livestock or poultry
• 83% of farmers/ranchers responded that new ways of improving yields with fewer environmental inputs will have a major impact on farming/ranching in the future
When asked which Top 5 topics were most important to educate consumers about, farmers and ranchers responded:
1. The effect of pesticides, fertilizers and antibiotics on food
2. Where food comes from in general
3. Proper care of livestock and poultry
4. Effect of government regulations on farming/ranching
5. Economic value of agriculture
"We want all Americans to join us to ask questions and regularly get information from farmers and ranchers who are growing and raising their food,” Stallman says.
The 2011 USFRA Farmer/Rancher survey was fielded by phone by Ketchum Global Research Network and Braun Research, New York, between Aug. 6-18, reaching 1,002 farmers and ranchers nationwide. The base sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%. The 2011 USFRA Consumer survey was fielded by phone by Ketchum Global Research Network and Braun Research between Aug. 24-31, reaching 2,417 consumers nationwide. The base sample has a margin of error of +/- 2%.
For additional information on the surveys, go to www.fooddialogues.com.