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Northwest Iowa Dairy Outlooks

A local discussion of current science and issues concerning dairying in northwest iowa

Consumers’ interest in agriculture and personal respect for farmers is high, even in countries where less than two percent of the population works in agriculture, according to the BASF Farm Perspectives Study, which surveyed 1,800 farmers and 6,000 consumers in Brazil, India, the United States, Germany, Spain and France. Yet farmers and consumers also agree that farmers’ reputations remain low. The study, which outlines the way farmers and consumers view the farming profession, its challenges and its support network, revealed surprisingly strong agreement on major issues, including the role of farmers and the major challenges farmers are facing in the 21st century.

Both farmers and consumers view farming as a vocation, one that is dedicated to providing nourishment, supporting rural culture and caring for the land. “Steward of the land” or “Caretaker of the land” is farmers’ favorite self-description in all six countries (over 80%), but registers significantly lower with consumers (50-60%). In a related question, many consumers blame farmers for environmental problems.

Around 80 percent of farmers and consumers from all countries agree that farming’s primary objective is to feed the world. Even so, a majority of farmers believe that consumers do not understand the full dimension of the food supply challenge or the reality of farming. Agreement on the contribution of plant biotechnology was strongest among farmers and consumers in countries with high adoption of genetically-modified crops, such as India (76% of farmers and 62% of consumers), Brazil (78% and 29%) and the USA (53% and 25%).

Interest-understanding gap

Consumers show a high level of interest in farming (from 84% in India to 50% in France), but also admit that they do not know enough about farming to judge it properly. Although farmers also see an understanding gap among consumers, many (ranging from 40% in the USA to 74% in India) take consumers concerns seriously and say they should do more to meet consumers’ expectations.

Price an obstacle, little support for subsidies on environment

The price of food and, conversely, the price of conservation remain obstacles for both farmers and consumers. A large majority of farmers believe consumers are not willing to pay higher prices for food produced in an environmentally-friendly way. Though some consumers (30%) say they would pay higher prices, a slight majority in France, Spain, Germany and the USA would not. Subsidies are seen by both groups largely as a means to keep food prices low, especially in India (74%), Brazil (67%) and Germany (64%) rather than as environmental lever (around 30%).

Farmers believe that industry and consumers should do more to support agriculture: More environmentally-friendly products and representation in public from industry; better grasp of farming and willingness to pay for environmental benefits from consumers.

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