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Poll shows public support is huge for Canadian agriculture

Farmers needing a morale boost this busy planting season would do well to check the latest poll showing Canadians are huge fans.

On Tuesday, Grassroots Public Affairs released survey results showing that a whopping 92 per cent of Canadians remain extremely confident in food grown or produced in this country.

I’m sure farmers don’t always feel that kind of love. But in this poll, the numbers show it.

For individual commodities, almost three-quarters said they were more likely to buy beef, pork, poultry and eggs grown or produced in Canada, than from elsewhere. Dairy, milk, cheese and yogurt were just a hair behind.

In fact, all the major groups – fruit and vegetable, fish and seafood, breads, cereals and grain – were all way out in front of similar imported commodities…even though Canadians also expressed increased confidence in food imported from Mexico, South America and the Caribbean. It’s not an either/or situation here.

Canadians also told pollsters they think most livestock farmers are taking animal rights more seriously than in the past.

That suggests communication efforts by commodity groups and farm associations representing farmers are getting through. 

The poll further showed that Canadians put agriculture among the top three sectors that will help the economy rebound from the pandemic.

And that’s fascinating timing. A few months ago, USDA agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack was stumping through the Midwest touting the importance of exports to his own domestic sector.

He needs to. In some circles, there’s a belief that exports take away food from hungry Americans and contribute to food insecurity.

It’s not only a discussion in the US. Other countries started clawing back exports when the pandemic hit, and still are.

The Grassroots poll suggests Canadians understand that exports support resiliency. Export sales bring foreign money into an economy and help build it up. People are not hungry because a country exports food.

But it’s not all roses. Canadians have some food issues, mostly related to price. Many say they have implemented a number of cost-cutting measures in the past two years around food shopping and consumption habits.

Consider these numbers: Seven in 10 Canadians have opted for discount or lower-cost food items, one-third more than two years ago. Almost 65 per cent have reduced their takeaway or restaurant food delivery options, a seven per cent drop since 2020. And there’s been a 25 per cent increase in Canadians who have purchased smaller volumes of food than normal.

Grassroots says Canadians see the problem of hunger and food insecurity more seriously today than ever before. The percentage of Canadians who called food insecurity a very serious problem doubled to 33 per cent in just a year. And more than eight in 10 see hunger and food insecurity in Canada as a serious problem. That’s a 25 per cent increase from 2021.

But overall, Grassroots principal and senior consultant Peter Seemann is bullish on the sector. “Few other industries are consistently viewed as positively,” he says. “Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector is resilient, and with the full support of government it stands ready to help Canada regain its economic stability.”

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