What is ‘sustainable’ agriculture? Consumers’ ideas vary

economic-forecast-headerNew information is available on U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance findings related to common perceptions about sustainability and agriculture.

Consumer perception plays a huge role in how companies describe themselves, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, a USFRA member organization. USFRA findings reveal nearly 8 in 10 consumers identify with four key points when it comes to farming and sustainability: soil, water, air and habitat.

However, 48 percent of consumers polled by USFRA couldn’t define sustainability, and study participants’ definitions varied depending on demographic aspects.

“It’s not surprising that consumers do not know what sustainability truly means,” said Tony Banks, assistant director of commodity marketing for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, a USFRA member and a state-level affiliate of the AFBF.

“The word ‘sustainability’ means something completely different to different people, and it shouldn’t. Hopefully USFRA’s research will allow those of us in agriculture to present consumers with a clearer and consistent meaning of the term.”

Using research, USFRA has developed a depiction of sustainability, defining it as “meeting the needs of today’s society without compromising the needs or resources for future generations.”

Banks said sustainability is a balanced approach to agriculture that matches various types and combinations of management and technology with available natural resources. A successful combination, he explained, achieves a desired production goal and economic return while protecting the soil, water and habitat for the future.

“With agricultural sustainability, a farm’s natural resource base is just as important as its production levels and economic return,” Banks said. “They do not exist without each other.”

A series of sustainability infographics are available at fooddialogues.com/sustainability-infographics.


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