A majority of U.S. adults have a positive view of farmers’ sustainability practices, and an overwhelming majority trust farmers, according to a new national public opinion poll from the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The survey of 2,200 U.S. adults found that 58% rate the sustainability practices of U.S. farmers positively; 84% said feeding the world was important and 83% said farmers being able to pass their farms on to future generations was also important.
According to Michigan Farm Bureau Ag Ecology Department Manager Laura Campbell, 88% of the respondents trust farmers, a 4% increase from AFBF’s June 2020 polling, which is evidence the public recognized that food supply chain challenges brought on by the pandemic were not within the control of farmers.
“The survey explored public attitudes about the environmental sustainability achievements of farmers thus far, as well as future policy direction to publicly support those efforts,” Campbell said. “More than four in five adults said environmental sustainability and economic sustainability were both important for farmers — in fact, most adults said it was very important.”
Support for farmers’ sustainability efforts swelled when government data from the Environmental Protection Agency and USDA was shared about environmental achievements in production agriculture, according to Campbell.
“More than eight in 10 Americans were impressed to learn farmers have put 140 million acres into conservation programs, more than doubled the amount of renewable energy sources they use, and nearly tripled the amount of food grown in the last 70 years with the same or fewer resources,” Campbell said.
The survey also explored how Americans think future sustainability efforts on farms should be funded. Seventy percent of adults say government incentives to encourage farmers to adopt additional sustainable agricultural practices would be effective.
“Overall, survey respondents agreed farmers shouldn’t be expected to bear the financial burden alone to implement additional conservation practices,” Campbell continued. “More than 75% of adults believe it is important for the government to fund science-based research and improve infrastructure to support agriculture.”
And, at a time when some corporations are making sustainability commitments that require specific agricultural production practices, Campbell said a bipartisan 62% of adults say corporations should compensate farmers for the additional cost of implementing those practices to help achieve sustainability goals.
The survey also revealed there’s work to be done to increase consumer awareness of agriculture’s comparatively small contribution to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. More than four in five adults (84%) were not able to correctly identify agriculture’s impact.
“On a brighter note, 45% of adults correctly ranked agriculture as the smallest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector,” Campbell said.
According to the latest EPA data, agriculture accounts for 10% of total U.S. emissions, far less than the transportation, electricity production, commercial and residential, and industry sectors.
View the full survey results here.