The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Retailers and Farmers - Reconnecting the Food Chain

Retailers and Farmers - Reconnecting the Food Chain

In the News

May 25, 2008

Retailers and Farmers - Reconnecting the Food Chain
NGA SPEAKS

Frank DiPasquale
Senior Vice President,
N.G.A. and Executive Director,
GREF

In 1950, farmers received an average of 41 cents for every dollar consumers spend on food. Today, that number is closer to 17 cents. Part of the reason for this trend is the complex web of people and companies that now inhabit the space between the farmer and the consumer. The consumer is now more distanced from the farmer, physically, mentally, and emotionally – creating a form of separation anxiety. 
 
Additionally, we have experienced a great deal of misinformation regarding “farmers,” which can easily spark a sense of mistrust. Grocery retailers can bear the consequence of a confused consumer and a perplexed farming community. Social media allows individuals, and activists, to become “consumer journalists,” and to spread their opinions online to large audiences with relative ease. Increasingly, consumers are relying on these “electronic connections” to provide them with information that, at times, repudiates sound science.
 
Today’s consumer is increasingly concerned over environmental issues but most know very little about sustainable food production. Consumers are concerned with the standards of animal welfare because they believe it has an impact on the well being of the animal and an impact on food safety. When consumers question retailers on topics such as “hormone free poultry,” “rBST in milk,” “antibiotic free beef,” and “fruits and vegetables treated with pesticides” – the farm community can be an invaluable resource for both the retailer and the consumer. 
 
Realizing the opportunity, N.G.A. has developed a program called “The Farmer Goes to Market”. This program is designed to create a forum that draws together the farmer and retailer in the interest of continuing to provide the consumer with safe quality food, as well as enhancing our efforts to ensure retailers are provided with timely and relevant information regarding nutrition and farming practices. 
 
An estimated 50 percent of all food in the United Sates flows through a grocery retail outlet. The nature of a direct link between the retailer and the farm community is more critical now then ever before. According to a recent study by the International Food Information Council, 45 percent of consumers agree that food and health information is confusing and conflicting, 27 percent disagreed, and the rest were not sure. 
 
There are numerous activists’ groups that have mastered the use of the internet, disseminating misinformation regarding food and farming practices that have confused consumer as well as our elected officials. The result of this activity has led to changes in the food production system – some costly and unwarranted. 
 
Furthermore, N.G.A. has decided to allocate a portion of our 2009 convention program and concept show floor to engage farmers with retailers in a meaningful way. Farmers will showcase their farms, the products they produce and discuss farming techniques that are top of mind with consumers. “The Farmer Goes to Market” program offers a rare opportunity for N.G.A. members to learn the latest information about farm technology, animal well being, sustainable farming and other management practices through direct dialogue with farmers. 
 
We are hopeful that this program of re-engagement for retailers and farmers will provide us with a pathway to reduce misinformation and build consumer trust in the food supply system and the farming community that is its backbone.
 
Frank DiPasquale can be reached at fdipasquale@nationalgrocers.org.