A study of consumer confidence in the nation’s food supply shows that most consumers are generally satisfied with the food they eat and the farmers who produce it. In addition, the survey of both consumers and producers shows that producers are more knowledgeable about what consumers want out of their food system than they were three years ago. However, several gaps in understanding still exist and producers need to continue to work to educate consumers about food production practices in the U.S.

These are the findings from a new 2002 U.S. producer and consumer attitude study completed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and Altria, formerly Philip Morris Management. The study is a follow-up to a 1999 joint research project that revealed significant gaps between producers’ and consumers’ views on food and agriculture issues.

Some of the key points of the research include:

  • Producers are more in tune with consumer expectations than they were three years ago, especially when it pertains to food safety.
  • More than 80 percent of consumers believe producers should be protected from economic fluctuations.
  • 58 percent of consumers think it’s important for food to be produced to maintain environmental resources and future productivity.
  • Producers’ environmental practices are in line with consumer expectations, while big gaps remain in other areas.
  • Producers’ opportunities to educate consumers about agriculture are starting to close as more consumers have formed opinions about food production issues.
  • 81 percent of consumers were clearly satisfied with the taste of food.
  • 74 percent of consumers were clearly satisfied with freshness and selection of foods available.
  • 85 percent of consumers said they would be willing to accept higher food costs in exchange for environmental gains on farms.
  • Consumers and producers agreed that almost everyone in the food chain has a lot of responsibility for food safety.

Despite having closed the communication gap in some areas, the new study showed that agriculture still must do a better job of communicating with consumers. Survey results showed that 63 percent of farmers and 73 percent of consumers said that the agricultural industry is doing either a "fair" or "poor" job of explaining the benefits and drawbacks of food production techniques to the American public.

The research indicates that farmers still may be able to educate consumers — but the window of opportunity is starting to close as fewer consumers answered "don’t know" to questions relating to food and farming.

The survey was conducted by Roper ASW. They contacted 1,000 consumers to ask their opinion of farming practices and how farmers were doing in meeting food supply needs. They also contacted 700 farmers to ask them to assess consumer expectations and to predict their future farming practices.

American Farm Bureau Federation