By Shankar Das, PAg, Public Trust Specialist, Regional Services Branch, Saskatoon
October is Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan. During October we take time to celebrate the farmers, ranchers and agri-businesses that devote their hard work and dedication into this amazing industry.
During Agriculture Month, the Ministry of Agriculture is pleased to share the results from the 2022 Public Trust Survey. The ministry has participated in this annual survey since 2013 to gain insight into the public’s perception of the agri-food industry to maintain and grow the public's trust in modern food production, which is critical to agriculture's sustained growth. The 2022 survey asked 16 questions to gauge how Saskatchewan residents’ perception of agriculture has changed over the last 10 years.
The results of this year’s survey show that Saskatchewan residents continue to have an optimistic outlook of agriculture with 87 per cent of Saskatchewan residents responding that they have a positive perception of agriculture. In fact, overall public perception of agriculture has proven to be very high for the last 10 years.
The survey results also show strong public confidence in environmental stewardship and humane treatment of animals by industry. The results also show confidence in the safety of foods produced in Saskatchewan and in the farmers and ranchers who produce them. For the last seven years, 90 to 93 per cent of Saskatchewan residents have also supported Saskatchewan farmers and ranchers in their freedom to use modern technologies for food production.
A new question exploring if Saskatchewan residents support the use of crop protection products showed that two-thirds of the respondents do support it.
Saskatchewan residents, on the other hand, have shown lower positive perception in regards to government’s regulations for agriculture protecting the interests of the public, the industry transparently communicating about their agriculture practices and the public supporting food produced from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These responses illustrate that there is room for improvement. The results also suggest the importance of informing consumers about Saskatchewan's robust regulatory framework.
Transparency is a buzzword in agriculture these days. When asked (in 2021) what the agriculture industry could do to be more transparent, many respondents suggested that the industry should honestly communicate their practices.
One respondent commented, “Welcome those who may disagree with their (producer) practices to give them factual information about how things are done and how animals are treated.”
Saskatchewan residents have moderate agreement on where to find credible information about agriculture and food. Last year’s survey revealed that access to credible information about agriculture continued to be a driver of public trust. When analyzed against the other public trust questions, agreeing that one had access to credible information about agriculture made respondents more likely to agree with the other questions. The survey results underscore the importance of organizations like Agriculture in the Classroom and Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan, which aim to provide accurate, science-based information on farming and food to students, teachers and the general public.
The respondents from the south and north regions, mostly rural areas, are more likely to agree than the Regina and Saskatoon regions to nearly 50 per cent of the questions, which include: where to find credible information about agriculture and food, humane treatment of animals, industry’s environmental stewardship, farmers having freedom to use modern technologies, support for intensive livestock development and transparent communication.
When compared to the national polling conducted by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI), Saskatchewan residents continue to show more acceptance/agreement on a number of agricultural practices such as overall perception of the industry, humane treatment of animals, environmental stewardship, food safety and trust in farmers and ranchers:
|2022 Saskatchewan Survey||National (CCFI) Survey|
|Saskatchewan residents have a positive perception of Saskatchewan agriculture.||87%||60%||Have a positive view of Canadian agriculture. (2019)|
|Saskatchewan residents agree livestock in Saskatchewan are treated humanely.||71%||39%||Concerned about humane treatment of animals in Canada. (2021)|
|Saskatchewan residents agree the agriculture sector transparently communicates about their practices.||52%||34%||Canadian farmers/producers provide open and transparent information. (2018)|
|Saskatchewan residents agree farmers and ranchers take care of the environment.||70%||34%||Believe Canadian farmers are good stewards of the environment (2021)|
|Saskatchewan residents agree food produced in Saskatchewan is safe.||87%||45%||Canadians are concerned about food safety (2021)|
|42%||Food Produced in Canada is safe (2020)|
|Saskatchewan residents support farmers use crop protection products (e.g., herbicides, fungicides, insecticides) in agriculture production||66%||41%||Canadians are concerned about the use of pesticides in crop production (2021)|
|Saskatchewan residents trust Saskatchewan farmers and ranchers||85%||42%||Canadians trust farmers and ranchers|
These differences indicate that our province needs to work closely and collaboratively across the Canadian agri-value chain to build the public's trust and enhance industry's sustained growth.
Gaining insight into the public’s perception of the agriculture and agri-food industry is essential to understanding how we can build public trust. Although there are some areas that we can improve on, the results show that Saskatchewan residents have confidence in producers — and that is something to celebrate.