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Louisianians think well of farmers, farming

Three-quarters of Louisianians have favorable opinions of farmers and farming in Louisiana, according to a recent statewide survey.

The scientific study conducted by Market Research Insight for the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation and the LSU AgCenter showed 75 percent of those polled said they had favorable or very favorable opinions about farmers and farming in the state.

Only 3 percent expressed unfavorable opinions, while 22 percent had either neutral opinions or expressed no opinion when asked, “Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of farmers and farming in Louisiana?”

Generally, most responses to questions in the survey were favorable toward agriculture and reflected that Louisianians seem to possess a good body of knowledge about the current state of affairs for the industry.

For example, 60 percent of the respondents already knew that one of every five jobs in the United States is related to agriculture, and a whopping 92 percent disagreed that farmers earn too much money.

“It’s good to see that so many people look upon farmers and farming in a favorable light,” said Louisiana Farm Bureau President Ronnie Anderson. “That speaks highly of the men and women involved in agriculture in Louisiana.”

As for their knowledge about Louisiana’s agriculture and natural resource industries, 71 percent of those responding to the survey knew animals can be a valuable source of medical products, 78 percent already knew Louisiana farmers participate in voluntary programs that support environmental quality and conservation, and 79 percent knew farming and wildlife can coexist in the same geographic area.

Despite several demonstrations of the extensive public knowledge of the facts about Louisiana’s industry, however, the survey didn’t show the state’s populace has all-encompassing knowledge. One example came when less than half of those questioned said they were aware forestry is the state’s largest industry based on agriculture and natural resources.

The forestry and wood products sector is indeed the state’s largest agricultural industry — contributing more than $4.2 billion to Louisiana’s economy in 2007, according to the soon-to-be-published 2007 Louisiana Summary of Agriculture and Natural Resources from the LSU AgCenter. That sector is part of the overall agriculture and natural resources industries that meant nearly $10.9 billion to the state last year, with other leaders including poultry, feed grains, sugarcane, horses, marine fisheries, cattle, rice, aquaculture (catfish, crawfish, etc.), cotton and soybeans.

“Although this survey has shown people know a lot about Louisiana agriculture, it also shows that we still have some work to do,” said Paul Coreil, vice chancellor and director of extension for the LSU AgCenter. “We definitely need to continue our work of educating the public about where their food and fiber come from, as well as what agriculture means to the state’s economy.”

The 500 respondents to the survey, which was conducted between Feb. 12 and Feb. 15, were from across the state. All were 18 years old or older, and they were relatively equally distributed geographically — 32 percent from Acadiana, 24 percent from the Florida parishes, 26 percent from the northern parishes and 18 percent from Orleans Parish/the New Orleans metro area.

Among the other results from the survey were:

• 77 percent of those surveyed realized the use of pesticides had increased the yields of crops, and 74 percent knew biotechnology has increased the pest resistance of plants.

• 74 percent of the respondents agreed that agriculture is a large employer in Louisiana.

• Most of those surveyed (68 percent) agreed that pesticides can be used safely when producing food, and nearly that many (60 percent) disagreed that only organic methods should be used to produce food. About 66 percent also disagreed that agricultural practices in Louisiana are harmful to the environment.

• 81 percent of those polled agreed farm grains are becoming an important energy source in the United States, but only 32 percent said a strong agricultural industry is more important than a strong military.

Of those polled, 41 percent were college graduates. About 25 percent said they had “some college” but no degree. Those who had not completed high school made up 8 percent of the respondents, and 26 percent of those surveyed had not gone beyond high school graduation.

Market Research Insight, which conducted this survey, is based in Gulf Breeze, Fla., and is one of the nation’s leading market research firms.

The Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest organization representing farmers and ranchers. It is a private, nonprofit, non-governmental agency established in 1922 to bring a voice to agricultural issues.

The LSU AgCenter is the state’s only educational institution dedicated solely to research and outreach on day-to-day matters that affect people’s living standards. A campus of the LSU System, it provides individuals, families, businesses, industries and local governments with valuable information to improve economic conditions and quality of life.

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