FARMS AND RANCHERS have long acted as stewards of the environment, with the majority taking care of the land, air, and water to the best of their abilities and current knowledge. However, agriculture has come under attack on a variety of fronts from people with an alternative agenda to folks who are not knowledgeable when it comes to agriculture. Considering all the misinformation you can find out there, it’s nice when you read a positive report.
According to a survey conducted by the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education, residents have great faith in Florida’s farmers. According to the survey’s results, 88 percent of the public feels that farmers are concerned about water when making decisions and 80 percent agree that farmers conserve water. As for land, 74 percent believe that farming protects the environment and 75 percent feel that farming preserves open spaces.
Of course, not all perceptions were positive. For instance, 54 percent of respondents felt that it was important to watch farmers closely to ensure they don’t take advantage of water resources. Such notions are what happen when a few bad apples leave a negative impression on the ag industry and farming profession.
While the general public showed great measures of trust in Florida farmers, the policymakers also surveyed for the research — local government officials like commissioners, managers, mayors, and clerks — showed much less confidence. For instance, only 36 percent feel that sound principles seem to guide farmers’ behaviors when it comes to water usage and that farmers can be relied upon to keep their promises when it comes to water use.
While local government officials should consider making a few more trips out to local farms for educational purposes, it’s heartening to see from this report that the general public has confidence in agriculture producers.
column by MICHAEL MARTIN
BIO: Michael Martin of Martin Law Office in Lakeland specializes in agriculture and environmental legal representation. A native of Polk County, Mike attended college at Sewanee in Tennessee, before obtaining a doctorate in law from the University of Florida and has tried numerous cases nationwide since that time. Mike also serves as the director of the FFA Foundation and is the author of the novel, The Crestfallen Rose.