Covid-19 appears to be having a positive impact on New Zealanders' views of pastoral farmers according to UMR director of rural research Marc Elliott.
Sixty-three per cent of New Zealanders now had a positive view of sheep and beef farming, he said last week, an increase of nine per cent eight months ago. Dairy farmers enjoyed an identical increase, from 51 per cent to 60 per cent.
Horticulture still had the highest positive rating, 65 per cent, while fisheries edged into positive territory, up from 47 per cent in August to 53 per cent.
The main reasons given for the renewed positivity included that these industries were efficient, high-quality producers of food for New Zealanders and the world; they were essential industries for New Zealand; they were good for the economy in that they provided exports and jobs; and farmers had worked through Covid-19, and would help the country through it.
"The research appeared to show that in a time of crisis New Zealanders are more clearly seeing the critical importance of their food-producing sectors," Mr Elliott said.
"This should be a small shot in the arm for pastoral farmers, who are facing droughts, along with looming regulations and long-term uncertainty in the markets.
"I keep hearing from farmers that one of their main challenges is negative public perception. While there are pockets of hostility towards our farmers, there is also a growing wave of warmth. When times are good, critical aspects of our economy can be taken for granted, but in the current crisis our food producers appear to be receiving the extra credit they deserve."