By Shankar Das, Public Trust Specialist
The Ministry of Agriculture's 2020 Public Trust Survey results are now available. The survey shows Saskatchewan people continue to have a positive perception of agriculture, with 91 per cent of all respondents indicating they "agreed" or "strongly agreed" with the statement "I have a positive perception of Saskatchewan agriculture." This is up from 85 per cent in 2019.
This year, 805 Saskatchewan residents were asked ten questions focused on agriculture regulations, transparency, innovation, intensive livestock development and overall perceptions of the industry.
Survey participants continue to respond positively to questions related to the humane treatment of animals, environmental stewardship and trust in Saskatchewan producers. However, there is still room for growth with 66 per cent of respondents agreeing that government's agriculture regulations protect the interest of the public and only 54 per cent indicating that the sector communicates transparently. This highlights the importance of informing consumers on Saskatchewan's robust regulatory framework. It also demonstrates that consumers are looking to the agriculture industry to communicate their practices with greater transparency.
The survey also asked two new questions concerning access to information about the food system and the role innovation plays in the industry. Sixty-nine per cent of respondents agree that they have access to credible information about agriculture and food. Further analysis revealed that access to credible information about agriculture and food proved to be an important driver of other responses. When analyzed against the other nine public trust questions, agreeing that one had access to credible information about agriculture made a person more likely to agree with the other questions. This clearly illustrates that access to credible information is crucial to gaining support for the agriculture and food sector. The second new question shows that 79 per cent of respondents agree that innovation in agriculture ensures food affordability. Respondents' recognition of the role innovation plays in ensuring food affordability speaks to the opportunity to build on the understanding consumers have of modern agriculture.
The demographic analysis provides additional insight that can be considered by the ministry and industry partners. For example, women were more likely to respond "not sure" to a number of questions and respondents from the south region of the province were more likely to agree to a majority of the questions. Also of interest, respondents with university education were more likely to disagree with most of the questions. These demographic differences are consistent with the results of both the 2018 and 2019 survey and help ensure we are aware of the perceptions of Saskatchewan residents as we communicate our priorities and provide information about modern agriculture in the province.
When compared to the national polling conducted by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI), Saskatchewan residents continue to show more acceptance/agreement for a number of agricultural practices such as overall perception of the industry, humane treatment of animals, environmental stewardship and trust in producers/ranchers, among others:
|2020 Saskatchewan (Omnibus) Survey
||2019 National (CCFI) Survey
|Have a positive perception of Saskatchewan agriculture.
||Have a positive view of Canadian agriculture.
|Believe livestock in Saskatchewan are treated humanely.
||Concerned about humane treatment of animals in Canada.
|The agriculture sector transparently communicates about their practices.
||Canadian farmers/producers provide open and transparent information (2018).
|Saskatchewan farmers and ranchers take care of the environment.
||Believe Canadian farmers are good stewards of the environment (2017 report).
|Have trust in Saskatchewan producers and ranchers.
||Canadians trust farmers/producers.
The difference between the perception levels, as highlighted, indicates that we need to continue to work collaboratively across the Canadian value-chain to build the public's trust. Focusing on the adoption of best practices, working to protect food safety, animal health and the environment, and partnering to build awareness about modern agriculture is essential to the industry's sustained growth. Visit the ministry public trust page to learn more about the 2020 Public Trust Survey results.