UK/Suffolk: Public perception of farming ‘continues to improve’, survey finds

Bill Baker, Suffolk Show director, is pictured in Drinkstone.

Bill Baker, Suffolk Show director, is pictured in Drinkstone. - Credit: Archant

Public perception of farming is continuing to improve, according to a survey.

A OnePoll study commissioned by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) found that five per cent more of the British public think positively about farmers and farming than last year.

Following the launch of the NFU’s Back British Farming campaign, the latest survey results revealed 67% of people think favourably about farmers, continuing an upward trend from 2012.

The findings were welcomed by Suffolk Show director Bill Baker, who farms at Drinkstone, near Bury St Edmunds, He said farming had historically had a tough time in the media, and in the public’s perceptions, but things were improving markedly.

“I think obviously we have had our fair share of food scares. Where the blame for that lies is debatable. The fact is they were there. The media got hold of stories which didn’t put farmers or farming in a good light,” he said.

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Farmers had gone through a period of over-production, where the industry was less environmentally-friendly than it is today, he said.

But since then, iniatives including those run by the SAA and NFU, as well through television presenters including Jimmy Doherty of Jimm’s Farm at Wherstead, near Ipswich, had improved farmers’ standing, he said.

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“I think the credit lies with farmers predominantly for the standards they achieve and Red Tractor and various initiatives that have been put forward, but also I think it’s testament to the work that the NFU and CLA (Country Land and Business Association) do but also organisations like ours (the SAA).”

The public, as a result, had become far more savvy about where its food comes from, he said.

The survey questioned people’s understanding of farming’s impact on the economy and the countryside. Results show that 90% believe farming is fairly or very important to the economy and almost three quarters of people think farmers have a beneficial effect on the countryside.

The study showed that 79% of people consider the farming industry to be a professional one with this statistic rising to 92% for the over 65s age group.

NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “Seeing that more and more members of the public are thinking positive things about farming is fantastic. Maintaining and enhancing a positive image of farmers and farming is hugely important.

“We were particularly pleased to see that 90% of people think that farming is important to the economy. Agriculture’s contribution to the economy increased by 67% between 2007 and 2013 and it’s great that the public have noticed this.

“Many of our farmers work in very rural areas in an isolated way but the work they do effects the everyday lives of British people. It’s heartening that shoppers are not only aware of the farming sector but are consciously making the right decisions to back British farming.”

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