A recent nationwide survey conducted by the United Soybean Board (USB) and soybean checkoff revealed that U.S. consumers strongly back U.S. soybean farmers and biodiesel.

The “National Agriculture Image Survey” indicated 82 percent of consumers agree foreign oil-producing countries and the high cost of fuel impacting farming and processing, packaging, storing and shipping food are to blame for food price increases, not U.S. farmers. Other key findings show:

• 77 percent of consumers favor the use of biodiesel as a source of energy that can meet our needs in the next 5 to 10 years.

• 74 percent of consumers were more favorable toward biodiesel after hearing it benefits to the environment.

• 70 percent of consumers were more favorable toward biodiesel after hearing it’s a new green industry that creates jobs.

“In a time when we all are feeling the pinch of high energy and food costs, it’s encouraging to know the American public realizes the benefits of soy biodiesel as a clean-burning, renewable, homegrown fuel,” says USB Vice-Chairman and Nebraska soybean farmer Chuck Myers. “The soybean checkoff believes it’s important that consumers understand the rising cost of petroleum represents the major reason for higher consumer food prices and that biodiesel represents a viable, useful and beneficial alternative to imported oil.”

Myers says that many consumers may not understand how soybean prices affect food costs. “Demand for soy biodiesel has very little impact on the price of food,” states Myers. “A soybean consists mostly of protein-rich meal, and 98 percent of that meal is used to feed animals that produce food such as poultry, pork, beef and fish.”

In addition to serving as a major source of feed to animals, U.S. soy also provides the world with food such as soymilk, tofu and other primary sources of human protein. Biodiesel production, Myers explains, does not have an impact on the production of soy-based foods.

“A soybean checkoff study found that demand for biodiesel made from soybean oil increases the supply of soybean meal, which will be largely used to produce more food — not less,” Myers explains. “U.S. soybean farmers are estimated to have sown 74.5 million acres this year to help meet global food demand.”

The study also looked at consumers’ perceptions of farmers, farm families and agribusiness. The survey results show 89 percent of consumers expressed a favorable image of U.S. farmers. Only 7 percent responded unfavorably, and the other 4 percent had no opinion.

The participants were surveyed to see if their opinions toward farmers have changed in the past year and if they were more favorable or unfavorable. In general, the survey showed the public has become more favorable toward farmers, believing they work hard and are “getting a raw deal,” as one survey respondent noted. A small handful of those surveyed have become more negative, criticizing farmers for choosing to take subsidies at taxpayers’ expense but not growing food to offset rising food costs.

When asked if farmers are good citizens of their community, 82 percent of participants said “yes,” while 18 percent thought that farmers do not have a stake in their communities. “They are the backbone of the country,” said one survey respondent. “I thought farming was easy until I met and talked with some farmers,” said another.

The survey was conducted by Foley & Lardner LLP and Wilson Research Strategies. Respondents completed an online survey and were drawn from a representative Internet panel. Interviews were completed in late May. The study had a sample size of 800 people, with a margin of error of +/-3.46 percent. The surveyed participants range in age from 18 to 75 and were split 50/50 in gender and political party affiliation. They also varied greatly in geographic region.

USB is made up of 68 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.