Positive shift in attitudes to farming


THERE HAS been a significant shift in the public’s view of farming, with nearly 90 per cent of people believing the agri-food sector is either extremely important or very important to the economy. Some 15 years ago the figure was just 65 per cent.

The Ipsos/MRBI research was commissioned by Agri Aware, the agri-food educational body, and conducted among 1,000 people in August. Some of the findings were compared with a similar survey carried out in 1997. Back then, 58 per cent of people said farming was beneficial or very beneficial to the countryside. That figure has risen to 88 per cent.

In this survey 91 per cent said the countryside was important in attracting tourists here. Nearly nine out of 10 people said they always or sometimes checked the origin of food they bought, and 91 per cent said they made an effort to buy Irish produce.

Three-quarters of those surveyed said the best reasons for buying Irish were supporting jobs in the Irish economy and keeping money here. But almost one-fifth said they bought Irish because the quality was better than that of imported food. The research revealed that more than half of people believe a career in farming or the agri-food industry is a good employment option.

The main reason cited was job opportunities and the importance of the sector to the economy. The farming lifestyle was cited by one in five people as a reason to choose a career outdoors. This finding is borne out by the increase in students taking courses related to agri-food. Agri Aware chairman Bernard Donohue welcomed the improved perception of the sector and said he believed the standards demanded by the Common Agricultural Policy had played a key role in helping farmers create a countryside of which they could be proud. However, he expressed disappointment with some other findings. Some 45 per cent of those surveyed did not realise food produced from animals fed on grass had more health benefits than food produced from animals fed with grain.

The Republic’s grass-fed system is one the main selling points of our meat and dairy produce for overseas buyers, particularly in countries where animals are housed for much of their lives.