Keep ag and attitudes on the same line

Almost 10 million Canadians watched the Super Bowl on Feb. 3. If you saw the American commercials, you saw the Anheuser-Busch InBev spot for Michelob Ultra Pure Gold “6 for 6-pack” beer that promises to help transition farmland to organic.

The commitment is that for every six pack of Pure Gold sold, the company will help transition six square feet of farmland to organic.

“America, less than one percent of our farmland is organic,” the commercial’s narrator says. ”And farmers who want to transition face monumental challenges.”

The commercial then goes on to say: “If every football fan picks up a six-pack, we could change America’s organic farmland forever.”

The promise is to guarantee barley farmers that the company will purchase their organic grains at a premium once they’ve fully converted.

So be it. If a beer company wants to help pay for more organic farmland, that is its right.

But couple this with the court cases on glyphosate in the United States. Three cases have awarded $190 million to plaintiffs, after the awards were reduced on appeal.

Bayer, which bought Monsanto, the creator of the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate is the main active ingredient), says there are more than 18,000 lawsuits pending.

But take note of this: in one of the three cases, involving a California farming couple in their 70s, both of whom developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a jury originally awarded $2 billion. That the award was reduced to $86.7 million is no doubt appreciated by Bayer, but it isn’t the point here.

Both of these developments arise out of public attitudes toward farming practices and pesticides.

Anheuser-Busch InBev is a giant beer company with annual revenues of more than $54 billion. Beer companies spend a lot of money on market research. They always need to know what’s on consumers’ minds — and what’s going to be on their minds next year.

Pure Gold, a low-calorie beer made from organic grains, was introduced in 2018. The commercial and the company’s ties to farmland is the next step.

These are clear indicators of where public perception is headed, especially among millennials.

Producers wondering whether public perception (public trust, social licence or whatever one might call it), is going to have an impact should take note.

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