Consumers say U.S. farmers not responsible for feeding the world

A new study indicates that a large segment of consumers do not believe U.S. farmers should be responsible for addressing global hunger. In its latest analysis of consumer trust in the food system, the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) found that 40% of those surveyed strongly disagreed that, “the United States has a responsibility to provide food for the rest of the world.”

The study also shows that more than half the survey participants strongly agreed with the statement, “It is more important for the U.S. to teach developing nations how to feed themselves than to export food to them.”

“These results clearly indicate that consumers do not believe U.S. farmers should be responsible for feeding the world.  Agriculture needs to find messages that deliver a direct benefit to consumers or society to build support for today’s farming practices,” said Charlie Arnot, CEO of CFI. “If consumers don’t believe U.S agriculture has a responsibility to feed the world then we can’t build consumer support for today’s farming simply by claiming we need to feed more people, unless we can build public support that feeding the world should be a priority.”

Stephen Sapp, professor of sociology at Iowa State University, says to his knowledge this is the first large-scale, nationwide survey asking Americans their opinions about U.S. agricultural policies to help feed the world.

“Some might argue that in times of economic recession Americans are less likely to support food assistance programs,” Sapp said. “However, history shows that the opposite tends to be true.  Our nation feels obligations to engage in humanitarian efforts. Also, it must be recognized that food exports represent an important source of income for our nation. So, although public opinion about providing food to help feed the world is an important influence on U.S. food production policy, it is not the only factor that guides it.”

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