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Threats To and From Agricultural/Food Production, as Ranked by U.S. Consumers

February 20, 2023 | Letters

Author: Nicole Olynk Widmar, Associate Head and Professor, Purdue University, Department of Agricultural Economics

The Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability (CFDAS) recently finished its final report from December 2022. The final report Volume 1, Issue 12: December 2022 CONSUMER FOOD INSIGHTS by Jayson L. Lusk and Sam Polzin covers topics from holiday trends to food value to food policy and agriculture.

In the summer of 2022, Dr. Jinho Jung shared insights about what consumers believed about food and their food system. Interestingly, most of the U.S. consumers surveyed for that report agreed climatic change would impact food prices, yet, there was relatively less agreement that agriculture is a significant contributor to climate change. However, emissions and environmental impacts remain a pillar of discussions about food systems, very commonly showing up at the center of the debates about local production or local foods.

The recent 2022 annual report from CFDAS includes a summary of responses to what the greatest threats to U.S. farm production are, as well as a summary of responses surrounding what the greatest threats are from food production.

Picking up from the prior focus on climate change … 55% of respondents ranked climate change in the top two threats to U.S. farm production, yet, only 38% rated greenhouse gas emissions among the top two threats from food production to American wellbeing. Economic viability was ranked by 47% of respondents as the greatest threat to U.S. farm production, with resource depletion following closely behind with 42% of respondents placing it in the top two threats.

A total of five threats were evaluated directly by respondents with regard to which was the greatest threat to American wellbeing from food production, namely greenhouse gas emissions, crop chemicals, bacteria and antibiotic resistance, food manufacturing, and animal welfare. Forty-eight percent of respondents ranked crop chemicals amongst the top two threats to American wellbeing, making it the threat with the largest percent of respondents placing it in the top two. Although animal welfare remains a hotly debated political and social issue, and one which challenges producers with unfunded mandates, amongst the five threats, the lowest percent of respondents placed animal welfare in the top two threats.