Consumers suspicious of US farming companies

American consumers fear that farmers are placing profit ahead of principle.

American consumers fear that farmers are placing profit ahead of principle, according to the Centre for Food Integrity’s (CFI) 2011 survey on trust in the food system.

The CFI, based in Kansas City, gave participants in the survey definitions of two types of farms. The first was family owned and operated, while the other was a commercial farming operation owned by a company and operated by employee farmers, with all decisions on operations made by managers.

By these definitions, most farms in the US are commercial. Respondents ranked safe, affordable and nutritious food as their top priorities and farm profitability and productivity at the bottom. Asked to rank what they felt farms’ priorities are versus what they should be, respondents felt family farmers’ real and ideal priorities are well-aligned, but that commercial farmers put too much emphasis on profitability, and too little on environmental sustainability and nutrition.

“Consumers fear commercial farms will cut corners when it comes to their priority issues,” said CFI chief executive Charlie Arnot. “We must overcome that bias by effectively demonstrating our commitment to their values.”

The results also show more concern over food prices and a slight decline in food safety confidence. Only half the respondents felt they have access to the information they need to make sound decisions about food. – Alan Harman