InfORmATIOn fROm ThE AGRICULTURAL InDUsTRy | November 2011AGRICULTURAL DIALOGUE 15                                        ...
AGRICULTURAL DIALOGUE 15                                                                                                  ...
InfORmATIOn fROm ThE AGRICULTURAL InDUsTRy | nOvEmbER 2011                                                                ...
AGRICULTURAL DIALOGUE 15                InfORmATIOn fROm ThE AGRICULTURAL InDUsTRy | nOvEmbER 2011                        ...
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Agricultural Dialog - The perceptions and realities of farming - November 2011


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Farmers provide a vital service to society, and BASF takes pride in providing them with the tools they need to succeed. At the same time, the way consumers feel about food and agriculture is a powerful force – driving retailers and markets, farmers’ choices regarding crops and farming techniques, and even EU regulation. For everyone involved in agriculture, be it as a policymaker or a manufacturer of farming solutions like BASF, it is critical to understand how these two groups really see each other.

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Agricultural Dialog - The perceptions and realities of farming - November 2011

  1. 1. InfORmATIOn fROm ThE AGRICULTURAL InDUsTRy | November 2011AGRICULTURAL DIALOGUE 15 EDITORIAL Dear readers, This edition of the Agricultural Dialogue provides important insight into the perceptions of contemporary farmers and consumers on the future of agriculture, as well as attitudes towards one another. Results from the new BASF Farm Perspectives Study, a research project that gathered the opinions of over 1,800 farmers and 6,000 consumers from across Germany, France, Spain, India, Brazil and USA, form the basis of this dialogue.The perceptions and realities of farming In addition to outlining the results of the survey, and in particular EU perspectivesFarmers provide a vital service to society, and BASF takes pride in providing generated from the research, we arethem with the tools they need to succeed. At the same time, the way consumers fortunate to also be able to include interviewsfeel about food and agriculture is a powerful force – driving retailers and with Prof. Ulrich Oevermann, Professormarkets, farmers’ choices regarding crops and farming techniques, and even of Sociology at the Goethe University ofEU regulation. For everyone involved in agriculture, be it as a policymaker or a Frankfurt who helps us to interpret some ofmanufacturer of farming solutions like BASF, it is critical to understand how these the results, and also James Ede, Europeantwo groups really see each other. Public Affairs Manager at Kelloggs who gives us a manufacturer’s perspective onThe results of the first global BASF ‘Farm Perspectives Study’ have helped to the survey’s findings.clarify key points of agreement and disagreement. In particular the researchfocused on the image of farmers and farming and the relationship betweenconsumers and farmers.Perceived roles of farmers markus HeldtFarming is perceived as a vocational, rather than transactional President, Crop Protection Division, BASF SEprofession by both groups. Farmers view their roles as providingnourishment, supporting rural culture and, in particular, stewardingthe land. However, there was some regional variation in the response.
  2. 2. AGRICULTURAL DIALOGUE 15 2In Germany, 90% of farmers agreed with the statement‘I regard myself as a steward of the land’ (similar to Brazil, USA andIndia) while only 70-80% gave that response in Spain and France.A much lower portion of consumers (50-60% in each country), seefarmers as stewards of the land. Instead, consumers regard farmersmainly as providers (e.g. 80% in Germany). Additionally the statement‘Farmers are often to blame for environmental problems’ found somesupport with consumers: India, France and Brazil around 40%, withGermany and the USA around one quarter.Farmers feel they’re not respectedAlthough farmers have a positive self-image, they view their positionin society negatively. Only a minority of changes (ca. 20% in Germany, Did you know?France, Spain, Brazil, 33% in the USA) are convinced that they are  In 2010, there were 11 millionrespected. In France and Spain this finding is further supported by farmers’ agricultural laborers in the EUnoticeably low levels of satisfaction (53% for France and 63% for Spain). representing roughly 3.3% of theDisagreement on how to feed the world working population.  23.1% of the EU 23 land mass wasFarmers and consumers agree that farming’s overriding task is to crop land and 41.9% was used infeed the growing world population now and in the future. There is no agriculture in 2009.agreement however on how pesticides and fertilizers are regardedfavorably by the majority of Brazilian (81%), American (73%), German  In 2009, only 19% of the EU population(65%) and Indian (77%) farmers, while Spanish and French farmers lived in a predominantly rural environment.have a less favorable opinion. The transatlantic divide is clearer on  29% of 6 – 16 year old children ingenetically modified plants, with the majority of US, Brazilian and Indian the UK think cucumbers grow in thegrowers in favor and the vast majority in Europe against. ground, 20% think sweetcorn is a root vegetable, and 17% could not identify aDespite consumers’ low understanding, farmers take their concerns daffodil according to a 2011 poll by theseriously Royal Horticultural Society.Importantly, consumers admit that their knowledge of farming is limited,  The average EU household spendsdespite their interest. Farmers know and accept this about their clients, 12.7% of its income on food and nonnamely that many ‘are concerned about the food they eat’ (60 – 75% in alcoholic beverages each month – onlythe USA, France and Brazil). Many farmers believe that they should do household maintenance and transportmore to alleviate consumers’ fears. are larger expenditures.Consumers disconnect quality and priceFarmers are convinced that consumers request prices that are toolow and are not willing to pay for food produced in an especiallyenvironmentally friendly way. In particular EU consumers appear toconfirm the fact (ca. 50% in Germany, USA, Spain and France) that theyare not willing to pay more, even if their ‘requirements are fulfilled’.Creating a shared view is important for the futureFarming sits at the heart of global challenges like ensuring foodsecurity and addressing climate change. This research revealsworrying misconceptions and differences of opinion. These threatennot only to damage farming, but also continued research into newinnovations. Creating greater understanding and unity between thesegroups is therefore a critical task.
  3. 3. InfORmATIOn fROm ThE AGRICULTURAL InDUsTRy | nOvEmbER 2011 3 About Professor oevermann Professor Ulrich Oevermann is a renowned expert on sociology having served as a Professor for Social Psychology and Sociology at the Goethe University Frankfurt since 1977 (Emeritus since 2008). He has also held positions as head of research projects at the Max Planck Institut für Bildungsforschung, Berlin (1977) and the Luhmann-Professur at the University of Bielefeld (2010/11). Professor Oevermann is also the founderGetting to the root of the issues of the «Objektive Hermeneutik» which is a method designed to interpret empirical Professor Ulrich Oevermann is part of the research sociological research. His special team that conducted the Farm Perspectives Study. fields of research include: socialization He shares his views on the way farmers and processes, sociology of the family, consumers see themselves and each other. culture, language and religion, the theory of professionalization, and the Your theory that farming is a vocational profession methodology of social sciences. rather than a transactional business seems to have been confirmed by the results of the study. Prof. Oevermann began his work with Could you offer us a brief explanation of what this BASF in 2009, helping to interpret means practically in terms of farmer attitudes? qualitative interviews with growers and other agricultural professionals toFarmers criticize consumers for not being prepared to pay higher prices understand their professional self-imagefor more environmentally-friendly products, not caring about sustainability and key challenges. He also assisted inand not fully realizing the challenges that farmers face in providing food the creation of the study questionnairefor a growing population. But at the same time farmers identify with the and continues to work with BASF toconsumers’ objective interests in secure food and the protection of the interpret the results.environment. Farmers think that the consumers’ concerns regardingthese issues are legitimate. This is the best proof that the farmer sees theconsumer as a client and not simply as a customer. Furthermore, farmerssee themselves as providers, as stewards of the land and as backbones of Consumers’ understanding of farmingtheir rural community, that means as administrators of common issues andgoods in three essential aspects.Does this mean the farming community lacks commercial motivation? France 33 50Not at all. At the same time, farmers identify with their role as a businessperson Germany 27 53and they are routinized in calculating their farming business as entrepreneursin a very sophisticated way. And they don’t see a contradiction between USA 33 55their responsibilities as environmental experts and as businesspeople. Spain 32 64Farmers are often more open to innovative, science-led, farmingsolutions than the general public. Do the results of this and your other Brazil 36 70research give you any insight as to why? India 64 84Farmers are usually very professionalized, that means they know - and feel- the tensions between the necessity of exploiting natural resources and Consumers’ Consumers’conserving nature as a resource. And farmers know exactly that they, as understanding overall interestexperts in handling this tension, have to follow methodically and rationallythe results of scientific research. Results in %, Base: All consumers, n=1.000 per country
  4. 4. AGRICULTURAL DIALOGUE 15 InfORmATIOn fROm ThE AGRICULTURAL InDUsTRy | nOvEmbER 2011 4If farmers play such a vital role in our society, why are their opinionsand perspectives so often marginalised by broader public opinion and James ede is European Public Affairs Managergovernment policy? for Kelloggs, havingThe big majority of the population increasingly lives at an experiential distance previously been Assistant Director at the Britishto farming. Instead of direct experiences, the public receives abstract Agricultural Bureau.knowledge through books and media reports. This distance is coupledwith certain generationally-conditioned attitudes toward technology and What surprised you about the resultsinnovation. In a huge world-wide movement, much of the public is oriented of this study? Theabstractly to organic, biological production and they are often used to seeing results highlight thatfarmers as conservative and indolent people. From the public’s perspective, different stakeholders are feeling isolated andespecially in Europe, farmers are still the producers of food surplus and not ignored. I think with the amount of interest inyet the providers for a growing population. The environmental discourse is food and agriculture currently there’s a hugedominated by the media so that the positions of consumers and policymakers opportunity to address this. As well as more communication, the increasing exposure ofreinforce each other without giving the farmers’ position a serious chance of the food chain to the global market is creatingexplicating itself. opportunities to drive supply chain integration. If we can achieve this we will be far betterWhat impact do you think consumers’ high interest in but low placed to meet upcoming challenges such asunderstanding of farming has on agricultural and food policy? Are market stability, food security and resourceconsumers the only opinion shapers or do retailers and other parts of the chain also have an impact? How does the difference between consumer and farmer perspectives affect companies inProbably the most influence comes from NGOs that focus on environmental the food value chain like yours? Farmers andproblems or the problems of consumers. Meanwhile, food retailers seem to consumers care deeply about price and qualityidentify more with the consumers’ side than with the farmers’ side. but this can be from different perspectives. However, showing better understanding andWhy do you think consumers take a greater interest in, and are more providing greater quality to the consumer doesvocal on the issues related to farming and food production than they are not have to mean a price premium, nor does itwith other industries? need to affect farmers’ incomes. While it is very important that consumers better understandBecause consumers feel, by intuition, that they are objectively more the relationship between quality and price, itdependent on farming than on the production of any other commodity, is also important that we don’t shy away fromespecially with respect to their life quality. This feeling becomes especially trying to meet market demand.virulent - according to the results of the study - when consumers have to Is this an issue that you think ought to beconsider an issue in the context of caring for their own children. addressed through a public education campaign? If so – do you think industry orTo what extent do you think this explains the fact that so many (between government are best placed to conduct40-50%) consumers express dissatisfaction with farming in their that? Education continues to be one area which is necessary to develop an accurate, collectivecountries? Are there other drivers? understanding of food and agriculture.I think that this expression of dissatisfaction has to be taken relatively. This Currently there are a lot of good things happening in this area like open farm days andfigure is not like a physical measure. It seems to me to be more an expression food brands directly connecting their productsof participating in the mainstream discourse on the environment than an to regions and farms. Government has a bigexpression of real experience. role to play in terms of ensuring understanding of agriculture and food, however, in an ImpRInT increasingly diverse media environment there are challenges to successfully communicate to all consumers young and old. One size BASF SE Rainer von Mielecki does not fit all. It is important that everyone Agricultural Center Limburgerhof AP/K – Public/Government Affairs in the food chain continues to drive greater connection in the best ways we can as this will AP/K - LI555 Phone: +49 (0) 621 / 60-27 511 ultimately result in greater value for all. 67117 Limburgerhof Fax: +49 (0) 621 / 60-27 512 Germany For more information about the BASF Farm perspectives study: content/news_room/Farm_Perspective_Study/ BASF_Farm_Perspectives_Study