Consumer trust in UK farmers has grown during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report.
The study, published by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), found 66% of consumers felt very or somewhat positive about British agriculture in 2020 – up 4% on the year before.
The report – Trust in Farming and the Environment: The Consumer Perspective – also found most people have a positive perception of farmers and the environment and only 15% think farming in the UK has a negative impact.
“Consumers have responded positively to farmers’ efforts to keep the nation fed during the pandemic,” said AHDB consumer insight manager Susie Stannard.
“But while there is goodwill, there is also growing awareness of many environmental issues affecting farming, both internationally and in the UK, and a desire to see agriculture make improvements.”
She said the report, which is based on findings from a study conducted by research body Blue Marble, found consumers would like to see farmers do more to demonstrate their environmental credentials through planting trees, sustainability labelling and boosting efficiency.
Although coronavirus was the biggest concern for consumers in 2020, the environment continued to be a top priority.
Concerns about farming’s impact on the environment included methane from livestock, the amount of land allocated to animal production, water use in the arable sector, flooding and soil erosion.
“Globally, a third of consumers are generally concerned about the effects of farming on the environment,” said Ms Stannard.
“However, in the UK, people feel much more positively about the impact of farming in this country and we should use that as a base to build from.”
She added: “One of the reasons why British people generally trust farmers is because their stewardship of the land demonstrates they care for the environment, as well as for their expertise and commitments to animal welfare.
“It’s vital that as an industry agriculture can clearly and simply communicate improvements made in sustainability to retain that consumer trust.”