Ag leads industry poll (Editorial)
For the first time in Gallup’s 20 years of tracking Americans’ views of various business and industry sectors, farming and agriculture is the clear leader.
The sector had been highly ranked in past years, but this year, with the pollster tracking public sentiment during the first two weeks of August, agriculture was tops with a 69 percent total positivity rating. Respondents were asked to rate 25 industry sectors as very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative or very negative.
Motivated by food security and supply issues brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, people didn’t idly drift over to the positive side, they jumped with both feet. Compared to the 2019 rates for the agriculture sector, this year saw its negativity rating at an all-time low, 11 percent, and it second-lowest neutral rating. That shift, along with two points from the “Somewhat positive” rating wound up in the “Very Positive” category, which had a 13-point jump.
Two other sectors crucial to our wellbeing, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, also posted high gains but their overall positivity, 51 percent and 34 percent respectively, were firmly seated in the middle of the pack and second to last. Perhaps not surprising, the federal government sector claimed the bottom spot with a 30-percent total positive rating.
Forced to find new ways to buy and sell food the last six months, consumers and direct market farmers found one another in online checkout lanes, reconfigured farmers’ markets and on-farm stores, maxed-out subscription programs and new home delivery options. People taxed the meat inventories of livestock farmers and butcher shops throughout the region and waited for hours at truckload sales for meat and eggs.
Through all that, those people interacted directly, albeit through masks and social distance, in a personal and meaningful way with the farmers responsible for growing the food. Even if little was said during the transaction, the message of its importance rang loud and clear. People needed food and wanted to feel safe getting it and farmers made it happen.
Through the USDA, the much-maligned federal government created the Farmers to Families Food Box program, which facilitated shipments of fresh produce and other items to food insecure people and last month passed the 75-million box milestone.
The families didn’t receive the box right from the farmer’s hands but the connection is still made and the appreciation, as shown by Gallup, is revealing.
What remains to be seen is if the appreciation holds as the nation returns to much of its pre-COVID-19 ways. Will those families that bought CSA shares or a side of beef this year ante up again? Will they give the farmer a brake when he’s moving equipment from field to field, realizing he’s going as fast as he can, too? Will they think about what it takes to grow a field of corn as they drive past on their way to work or school?
We continue to hope so. Something good has to come out of this mess of a year.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925