When the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) was formed in November 2010, it was the first time all of agriculture came together under one banner to speak with one voice in the food conversation arena.
American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman, chairman of USFRA, said the alliance faces skeptics who doubt that all sectors of agriculture with disparate interests can work together in a united effort, but as USFRA approaches its first anniversary it is proving the skeptics wrong. USFRA is financially strong and the current membership of 49 organizations, representing groups as diverse as egg farmers and rice producers, is united in the goal to engage in a dialogue about the value of modern food production.
The public conversation with consumers and food decision makers is underway. Sept. 22, USFRA held “The Food Dialogues,” a connected, town-hall-style meeting at four locations across the country – Washington, D.C., New York City, Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana and the University of California-Davis. The event was viewed online by consumers and farmers alike and was quite the buzz on social media sites such as Twitter.
During the dialogues, USFRA released the results of two national surveys polling farmers and consumers about food and farm issues. The consumer survey makes it clear Americans are disconnected with raising their food. A staggering 72 percent surveyed know nothing or very little about farming and ranching. Still, 70 percent said their purchase decisions are affected by how food is grown and raised, while 72 percent say they think about the topic when purchasing groceries.
Another important finding shows consumers expect farmers to produce healthy foods, with 79 percent of those surveyed saying producing healthy choices for all consumers is very important for farmers and ranchers to consider when planning farming and ranching practices.
In the survey of farmers and ranchers, 86 percent responded the average consumer has little or no knowledge about modern farming and ranching. A clear result of the survey was farmers and ranchers believe the top misconception they must overcome is the notion a few “bad actors” represent all of agriculture. Additionally, farmers and ranchers identified the role of pesticides, antibiotics and fertilizers in food production as the most important priorities they should address when communicating with consumers.
Stallman said the results of the survey underscore the need of farmers and ranchers to do a better job of reaching out to consumers. The good news, he says, is farmers and ranchers want to become more transparent to their customers. Stallman said USFRA has one clear message to consumers: “We are listening.”