The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance conducted two surveys simultaneously earlier this year. USFRA General Manager Hugh Whaley says the purpose of one survey was to get a better idea from consumers what their concerns are about today's agriculture; how much they knew about today's agriculture; how much they wanted to know about today's agriculture. The other survey talked with farmers about their concerns about operating in today's environment and the consumers' perception of how they go about their business of farming and ranching.
"Consumers, by and large, the majority of consumers do not, and admit they do not know what is going on in today's agriculture," Whaley said. "There is that knowledge gap, that information gap that has been building over the past several decades and last several generations as people get further and further removed from production agriculture. They just don't have relatives and friends anymore that are involved in production agriculture."
While they admit that they have this knowledge gap, Whaley says they are very much interested in learning more. He says about 75% of consumers while making food choices are concerned about what they know or about what they've heard about how their food is grown and raised.
"From the farmers' side they are very hopeful that new varieties will be available on the crop side of things to allow them to cut the amount of inputs and that they will better withstand the variance in weather," Whaley said. "On the livestock side they are certainly concerned about making sure they have an adequate environmental plan in place, that they are continually improving how they raise their livestock, and how they produce milk and cheese from the dairy side."
Whaley says members of the alliance have a desire to be able to communicate and have an open dialogue with consumers regarding their concerns. They want to emphasize that farming and ranching is part of a continual improvement process.
"Farmers and ranchers are always looking for new and better ways of growing crops and raising animals," Whaley said. "As an alliance, we are going to be taking that information, we're going to be utilizing it to design programs that bridge that knowledge gap, that education gap that currently exists."
To listen to the complete conversation with Hugh Whaley about the USFRA's survey results and plans to use the data moving forward, use the audio player on this page.