Newfound consumer trust in agriculture presents opportunity to farmers

According to a survey conducted by American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), 88% of Americans trust farmers, presenting agriculturalists with the opportunity to communicate what agriculture can bring to the table (no pun intended). To reinforce the prospective backing of agriculture, one in five people have a high level of trust in modern agriculture, while 50% of people have confidence in contemporary agriculture. 

The shift of mindset in consumers is a likely result of consumers becoming more aware of the food supply chain after the widespread shutdowns of meat processing plants across the United States due to employees getting infected by COVID-19. Two plant closures that had a significant effect on meat supplies were the Tyson facility in Waterloo, Iowa, and the Smithfields Inc. plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The indefinite closure of the large pork producer raised many concerns in the industry. 

When supplies were scarce, consumers began looking to farmers to buy food directly from, cutting out the middleman that is the meat processors and grocery stores. Recognizing the need for farmers to reach consumers, groups like Farm Direct Wisconsin arose to connect producers to their customers. 

As reported by the Heartland Report Report, “Specifically, Farm Direct Wisconsin is a Facebook group formed back in April and hosts over 50,000 members, both producers and consumers, to help farmers sell their products.” […] “Rae Ann Scherr created the group after recognizing the impact COVID-19 had on the agriculture and food industry, and she identified a dire need for relationships between producers and consumers.”

Not only did consumers become more aware of the food supply chain, but they also developed a relationship with the growers. The habitual change in consumers may not only drive positivity towards the supply chain agriculture provides, but it could also control trust in agriculture as a whole. Grocery stores started to become overlooked as more consumers seek out local producers to purchase food. The demand for local meat was a response to not finding what they want in stores, and consumers became very trusting of food producers in their area. Even the meat’s initial sticker price did not scare them off as they were willing to pay a premium for quality products. 

So, before the American Farm Bureau’s survey was conducted, why were consumers wary about farmers? Well, they were not necessarily wary of farmers but instead farming and the advancements that agriculture made over the decades. In my blog post for CIBO Technologies, I wrote, “With more technological advancements, some consumers and ethicists share concerns over the integrity of new technologies in agriculture […] Pushback from consumers became an unintended consequence of groundbreaking advances in agriculture.” As a result of disconnect misinformation thrived for years, stripping the narrative from the farmers.

Animal rights activists never helped inform the public about animal agriculture as common myths have reached consumer’s ears for years, causing a shift of negative perceptions about the agricultural industry. It has been through the work of advocates to properly inform consumers about agriculture, promoting transparency than obscurity. The 88% number is a silver lining for farmers. By providing transparency to the public, producers and agriculturalists can keep an open dialogue to inform consumers where their food is grown. AFBF recommends “farm tours, op-eds, classroom visits, social media posts, grocery store conversations, city council meetings” as just a few examples to accomplish this goal. Bringing the conversation to consumers rather than waiting for criticism often serves as a tool that yields more benefits. 

In essence, the gap between farmers and consumers appears to be closing. It presents itself as an opportunity for consumers to continue asking questions and for farmers to answer them. Farmers are becoming highly trusted, and it is up to advocates to finish strengthening that trust. 

2 thoughts on “Newfound consumer trust in agriculture presents opportunity to farmers

  1. Probably, “modern agriculture” is more synonymous with thoughts of big ag corps, and when people hear “contemporary agriculture” they think smaller farmers market type stuff. I think people are just wary of corporations in general, especially big ag corporations who, let’s be honest, don’t have a sterling track record of even looking out for the best interest of farmers. Back when Monsanto was still around, they sued several small farmers in our county (billion dollar company versus farmer in a rusty, secondhand Gleaner). And any local poultry farmers who dare speak up to our local integrator risks losing flocks and therefore income. We have a lot of commercial blackberry growers here, and Dole will arbitrarily refuse “overripe” berries just to keep supply down, which leaves farmers stuck with tractor trailer loads of highly-perishable berries. And if you go the sale barn, cattle guys can’t figure out how the price of beef in the grocery store is so high, yet it’s so low at the sale.

    So there’s a lot of distrust even from farmers toward “modern agriculture,” which is probably partly why it ranks so low. That said, when actual farmers are talking, I think people realize all the hardships and hard work they have to grow through just to farm and that connects with the general public, which is why the trustworthy rates are so high for actual farmers.

    Anyway, great post! One thing is certain: we need more farmers like you to speak up and educate about issues related to agriculture.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: