Survey shows growing public support for agriculture

Canadians rank agriculture as the top driver of the economy

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A recent survey by Grassroots Public Affairs shows that nine out of 10 Canadians endorse government support for the agri-food sector.

The communications consulting firm did the survey to analyze Canadian opinions on agriculture, hunger and food security.

Why it matters: An industry’s reputation can greatly affect policy, drive funding to specific projects and affect sales, either negatively or positively.

The survey analyzed 1,004 Canadians online and focused on the Canadian food industry.

Peter Seeman, senior consultant with Grassroots Public Affairs said the question about government funding for agriculture received strong support.

Peter Seeman.
photo: Courtesy Peter Seeman.

“Please tell us whether you agree with the following statement: the federal government should prioritize financial support for the agri-food sector to ensure a consistent and reliable food supply for Canadians. This one was overwhelmingly positive,” he said.

More than 90 per cent of participants said they somewhat or strongly agreed.

Women showed higher support than men, and there was a direct correlation between participant’s exposure to agriculture and their level of support.

“When asked ‘have you ever worked in the agri-food sector,’ not surprisingly, we saw a much higher percentage of people who said ‘yes they had,’ were older. If they had direct support and direct engagement, then they were more supportive in general.”

When participants were asked which agri-food sector should be granted government subsidies to protect them from impacts of foreign government decisions, fruits and vegetables ranked highest at 79 per cent, followed by grains, dairy, poultry, beef, aquaculture and pork.

Agriculture is viewed as the leading economic driver in Canada when participants were asked to rank industries in importance for the Canadian economy.
photo: Graphic: Grassroots Public Affairs

Animal proteins, with the exception of aquaculture, all showed an increase in support from Canadians for government subsidies, from 2019 to 2020.

“If you’re in the livestock sector, you’re in the animal protein sector, this is good news because there is some growth forward, and people do support animal proteins more than they did last year,” says Adrian Macaulay, director of research with Grassroots Public Affairs.

Animal protein received less support than fruits/vegetables and grains when it came to overall priority, which researchers attributed to the large news coverage around the new Canadian Food Guide.

“We wondered if perception had much to do with this. The perception of healthy (by) eating fruits, vegetables. We hear a lot of that, grains and dairy obviously,” said Seeman.

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Women and residents of Quebec were most likely to rank this as a top priority. Those demographics had a higher response than the national average.

When looking at the grain sector, the Prairies showed the highest support, not surprising because it represents a large portion of their economy, Seeman said.

Younger participants were less supportive of animal proteins.

“From a high level, and a directional level, I do see those under the age of 34 are more plant-based, and are less likely to support subsidization towards proteins from livestock and animal commodities, and are more likely to favour grains, fruits and vegetables,” said Macaulay.

Older people, particularly men, are more likely to favour animal proteins over plant-based sectors.

When reviewing aquaculture, Atlantic Canada showed the highest support, with lower support from British Columbia.

Support for pork was highest on the Prairies.

When comparing the agriculture sector to other important sectors in Canada, agriculture ranked as the Number 1 economic driver.

“Overwhelmingly, it was the first one on the list in terms of Canadian support. This was very encouraging and exciting to see,” said Seeman. “Across the board agriculture and agri-food was significantly supported above science innovation research.”

As well, 61 per cent of participants said they were confident about the safety of domestically grown food, which marks a 13 per cent increase from 2019.

The study showed exposure to agriculture greatly influences Canadian support for the industry. As well, support for the industry differed regionally and food culture and understanding mattered greatly.

About the author

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Jennifer Glenney

Jennifer lives on a farm in Cayuga, Ontario and has a lot of experience in the many aspects of agriculture.

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