Created on 6/23/2020 3:27:01 PM
Written by Michael Graydon, CEO of Food & Consumer Products of Canada
Published on February 28, 2020
Ask most Canadians if they like and respect farmers and you will get a resounding “yes.” How can I be so sure? Because that is exactly what FCPC did last year, and our polling found that a whopping 93% of Canadians have a favourable view of farmers and 99% understand that farmers are vital to our economy.
But all is not well on the farm front. In a Chronicle Herald article last week, Dalhousie University professor Sylvain Charlebois highlighted the growing gap between farmers and consumers.
“Farmers are criticized for a variety of reasons. Our farmers’ environmental stewardship or ethical behaviour in how they treat livestock have been questioned countless times. And it’s only getting worse… While Canadians overwhelmingly trust farmers, they remain split on whether practices on farms are ethical or environmentally sound.”
- Sylvain Charlebois
It’s hard to miss the sometimes vitriolic comments lobbed at our farmers on social media. Increasingly these unfounded accusations are walking off the screen and into the real world, with activists trespassing onto farms in unplanned visits that pose a risk to everyone involved, including the animals.
How can Canadian consumers respect and trust our farmers and yet have such distrust of their work?
One potential explanation lies in an Agriculture and Agri-food Canada survey that found that two thirds of Canadians say they know next to nothing about agriculture, while just 3% are very knowledgeable about the sector.
It’s hard to trust something you know little about, and most Canadians have never set foot on a farm or spoken to a farmer. This disconnect presents an easy opening for militant activists to exploit when pedaling their anti-farmer agenda.
Farmers have not taken this treatment lying down. Through farmers groups and individual social media channels, Canadian farmers have been showcasing the realities of their profession. But these efforts have been met with little interest. Farm life is simply too disconnected from the average urban consumer’s daily life.
That is where FCPC comes in. Our members are literally the bridge between farmers and consumers, taking goods from the farm and putting them on the store shelves across Canada. Our members buy 40% of what Canadian farmers grow and turn it into 70% of what’s on grocery store shelves throughout Canada.
We can also be the bridge for information, bringing home the importance and benefits of modern agriculture. Our farmers are accomplishing amazing feats. Canadians represent just 0.5% of the global population but produce 1.5% of the food in the world. We are producing more with a smaller environmental footprint, with the amount of methane produced per kilogram of milk down by 13% and beef and pork on a similar trajectory. And we produce some of the safest food in the world.
We cannot let baseless distrust and second-guessing of our farmers slow this momentum. But there is reason to be optimistic. Remember, 90% of Canadians have a favorable view of farmers. They are open to hearing the great story of our farmers’ success. We just have to tell it.
Find out more about FCPC’s work to protect Canada’s families, farmers, economy, and environment and how you can help at: http://www.fcpc.ca/foodisfundamental/