The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture released their omnibus survey results focused on consumer perceptions of the agriculture industry. The survey conducted by Insightrix Research polled a total of 802 residents in Saskatchewan asking a variety of questions about their level of trust in what farmers and ranchers do. The results show we are slipping.
It is always beneficial to put things into perspective before plunging down a rabbit hole so let’s consider how the ranking is against residents from across Canada. Saskatchewan has a strong rural community compared to other provinces like British Columbia or Ontario, thus a correlation between understanding agriculture practices is going to be stronger just through pure association with those who are growing food. For example, surveying done by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI) shows that 60% of Canadians have a positive impression of agriculture, while in Saskatchewan a similar question will yield results in the high 80s. The same results occur through a variety of different questions from humane treatment of animals to the use of pesticides to concern about food safety. On every markable public trust indicator, Saskatchewan residents have a stronger level of trust for food. This is good.
The problem with the data is it shows in the vast majority of trust indicators, we are dropping as an industry year over year. Positive perceptions of agriculture are down 2%. Consumer’s trust in farmers and ranchers taking care of the environment is down 3%. Knowing where to find credible information about food is down a whopping 8%. In fact, the only measurable category where we’ve seen an increase is in the acknowledgement that farms are family-owned businesses, up 2%. This is not good.
We have seen, over the last few years, a stronger conversation about the food system in Canada. First, having gone through the short-term shortages of some food products due to Covid, then to food inflation caused by a variety of different issues local and globally. All these factors combine to make consumers trust rachet down a few cogs, but we can stop it from falling more.
The newest data from the CCFI continues to rank farmers and ranchers as the number one trusted source for food related information, bonus, Saskatchewan has over 40,000 farmers and ranchers. Communicating what we do to grow food builds this trust from the grass roots up. Talking to other parents in the hockey rink, posting a video of calving season, videoing walking poultry barns, inviting a community group or classroom to showcase how your seeding system or combine works all amplifies the voice of agriculture. Trust in what we do starts with you. Let’s not slip in 2023.