Farm Futures logo

'Safe, Abundant, Affordable' Not Resonating

As part of the National Ag Day celebration, USFRA shares research on how to talk with consumers: what works and what doesn't.

Holly Spangler 1, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

March 20, 2013

2 Min Read

Illinois farmer Katie Pratt stood at the microphone yesterday during the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance Ag Day briefing, and talked about how she grew up on the farm. They baled hay, and picked peas, and took care of cattle, and baled hay, and then baled some more hay. She talked about the farm operation she married into, and how excited she is that they can figure out down to the square foot what a corn plant needs and which ones have beetles eating silks.

Pratt's explanation was exactly the message that resonates with consumers, based on broad USFRA research. Science, facts and figures don't sway them, but the story of an individual farm does. The research was presented as part of the National Ag Day celebration in Washington, D.C. this week.

Erika Poppelreiter, a Kansas farmer and USFRA representative, shared that among their research, they learned that only a third of Americans believe that pesticide use has decreased sharply since 1999. Further, 38% believe the government can't be trusted; 33% believe the media gets the story wrong; and 49% believe agriculture is "on the wrong track."

What does resonate with them is the ability to address their high-level concerns, specifically, what is the long-term health impact of the way we grow food?

USFRA says the message has to change. "It's not what you say, it's what they hear," Poppelreiter said.

"When we say 'safe, affordable and abundant' – which I've said many times – they hear, 'are pesticides really safe, at what cost to quality and maybe we have too much food,'" she added.

When agriculture says, "our methods are proven safe," they hear, "Your methods tamper with nature." When ag says, "most farms are family run," they hear, "but beholden to big processors and the bottom line." When ag says, "we have the safest food supply in the world thanks to the ag industry," they hear, "you will take profitable short cuts if and when you can."

Both Pratt and Poppelreiter emphasized the need to change the way agriculture talks about agriculture, and as Katie did to open the briefing, tell a story and show enthusiasm for technology and other methods.

For more on the research, check out

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler 1

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

Holly Spangler has covered agriculture for the past 18 years, beginning her career with Prairie Farmer before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications. As editor of Prairie Farmer magazine, she brings meaningful production agriculture experience to the topics she covers, including a variety of production, management and issue-oriented stories. She also offers up her generation's take on the issues of the day through her monthly column and blog, My Generation.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is a member and past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. She was named Master Writer in 2005 and in 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn Growers Association and MidAmerica Croplife Association. Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the 2011 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the College of ACES Alumni Board, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth.

She graduated in 1998 from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications, and received the Warren K. Wessels Award for outstanding senior in the College of ACES. Immediately following graduation, she was a founding member of the U of I Ag Communications Alumni Leadership Council, and in 2011, the College of ACES named her an Outstanding Young Alumni.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and cattle on 2,000 acres. Their operation includes 100 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John's parents, and their three children, Jenna, Nathan and Caroline.

Holly is also active in the Illinois Farm Families program, and shares the story of agriculture and communications with a variety of groups and organizations, both within and outside of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations, receiving the Illinois Farm Bureau's Young Farmer Achievement Award in 2007.

Locally, Holly and her husband serve with their county's 4-H program, their school district and in their church's youth and music ministries. 

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like