The American public trusts farmers and distrusts activists, according to research.

“Build on the trust that the general public has bestowed in the industry to ‘hedge’ against future crises,” says Michele Payn-Knoper, an agricultural issues consultant. She’s talking about a national consumer opinion survey conducted by Market Directions and underwritten by the Animal Agriculture Alliance and National Corn Growers Association. It found that the general public has deep trust and confidence in American schoolteachers, veterinarians, physicians, farmers and ranchers. In contrast, the public distrusts activists and Hollywood actors, especially when they attack animal agriculture.

“This study was a breath of fresh air for the ag industry, which is accustomed to dealing with outspoken activists who take science out of context or distort issues to frighten consumers about our food supply,” Payn-Knoper says. She adds that in a separate study, conducted by Harris Interactive and published in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, activists were found to be the “least trustworthy” of non-profit groups. At the bottom of the trustworthiness scale: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Greenpeace.

“End-user perceptions about the food and fiber business will directly impact your bottom line down the road, so make the investment now to become a better spokesperson for the industry,” she advises. “It is absolutely critical that we learn to verbalize and demonstrate our innovations in food production and safety in a language the consumer can understand.”