Posted: Thursday, August 05, 2010 10:00 AM
Seth Perlman/The Associated Press
This photo, taken July 13, shows rows of corn near Pleasant Plains, Ill. A survey by the Illinois Farm Bureau survey shows urban consumers may be misled by such signs.
Perception of corporate ownership dims trust of many consumers
By JERRY HAGSTROM
For the Capital Press
VAIL, Colo. -- Signs that proclaim the source of seed for the crops growing in fields lead urban Americans to think the farm is owned by a seed corporation, an Illinois Farm Bureau survey of Chicagoans has found.
That impression may be damaging the image of family farming, said Mary Kay Thatcher, the American Farm Bureau Federation's Washington lobbyist.
In a speech to the American Sugar Alliance International Sweetener Symposium here on Aug. 2, Thatcher said that the survey of 2,000 Chicago residents found that more than 50 percent of respondents think that farms are owned by corporations. When asked how they reached that conclusion when most farms are family owned, the respondents said they saw the seed signs and assumed that the corporations owned the land.
The impression is important, Thatcher said, because 76 respondents said that they trust family farms, but only 15 percent have a favorable view of corporate farms.
In an interview afterward, Thatcher said the image of farming is important in writing the farm bill. Farmers should think about whether they want to remove those signs from their property.
"If we can change impressions by doing something that simple, I think farmers have to consider it," she said.
One sugar beet farmer at the meeting said that when he has a beautiful crop, the salesman who sold him the seed sees it and asks to put up a sign.
Thatcher said the Illinois Farm Bureau study shows that city and suburban people most interact with farmers through farmers' markets. Driving by a farm is ranked second in how they form impressions, and the third is through friends who are farmers.
USDA announced Aug. 3 that the number of farmers' markets nationwide has grown to 6,132, including 286 in Illinois. Thatcher noted that shoppers learn a lot about fruits, vegetables and organic and local production at farmers' markets, but not about commodities such as corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton.
Thatcher said that, while the Illinois study was limited to the Chicago area, she believes the views that Chicagoans expressed are probably similar to those of urban and suburban residents in other parts of the country.