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 (AFBF).
The survey of 2,200 U.S. adults found that more than half (58%) rate the sustainability practices of U.S. farmers positively, with broad agreement from a majority of adults across demographic groups.
Nearly nine in 10 adults (88%) trust farmers, a 4% increase from AFBF’s June 2020 polling, which is evidence that the public recognizes that the food supply chain challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic were not within the control of farmers and ranchers.
The survey also explored public attitudes about the environmental sustainability achievements of farmers and ranchers as well as future direction to advance climate-smart agriculture. Overall, the public agrees that farmers shouldn’t be expected to bear the financial burden alone. More than four in five adults (84%) said environmental and economic sustainability are both important for farmers, and most adults said both are very important. More than four in five adults also said feeding the world (84%) and farmers passing farms on to future generations (83%) are important.
“Americans have a high level of trust in farmers, and they understand that we’re committed to protecting the soil, air and water,” AFBF president Zippy Duvall said. “We want to leave the land better than we found it for our children and grandchildren as well as our nation. Our survey demonstrates that Americans are impressed by advancements in climate-smart farming, and we look forward to building on that success.”
Support for farmers’ sustainability efforts swelled when government data about achievements were shared. More than eight in 10 Americans (81%) were impressed when they learned that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture, 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.
Looking to the future, the survey explores how Americans think sustainability efforts on farms and ranches should be funded. Seventy percent of adults said government incentives to encourage farmers to adopt additional sustainable agriculture practices would be effective. More than three-quarters of adults believe it is important for the government to fund science-based research (76%) and improve infrastructure (78%) to support agriculture.
At a time when some corporations are making sustainability commitments that include or affect agricultural production, a bipartisan majority of adults (62%) said corporations should compensate farmers for the additional cost of implementing environmental practices to help achieve sustainability goals.
The survey also revealed that there is still work to be done to increase awareness of the agriculture industry’s comparatively small contribution to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., as 84% of adults 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.
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.