Ag’s trust cam­paigns

The Western Star - - Rural Weekly - LUCY KNIGHT [email protected]­ral­

MORE than 50 cam­paigns are un­der­way or in the pipe­line to pro­mote and jus­tify Aus­tralian farm­ers.

Tens of mil­lions of dol­lars is be­ing spent by in­dus­try and gov­ern­ment pro­mot­ing agri­cul­ture’s cre­den­tials to the pub­lic to counter a wave of at­tacks on is­sues such as chem­i­cal use, land clear­ing, ir­ri­ga­tion and an­i­mal wel­fare.

Head­ing the charge is the $10 mil­lion cam­paign launched by the Na­tional Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion in July.

The NFF last month called for donors for the $10-mil­lion ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign to tell the story of farm­ers over the next five years, re­spond­ing to a burst of an­i­mal ac­tivism and anti-farmer sen­ti­ment this year.

In the same week AgForce un­veiled a ma­jor self-funded cam­paign, Stand Up for Re­gional Queens­land, to high­light in­equities faced by farm­ers and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. AgForce won’t say how much it is spend­ing, ex­cept the cost is “sig­nif­i­cant”.

Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son promised $30 mil­lion dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign to help pro­mote agri­cul­ture in schools and through the coun­try show move­ment be­cause he was alarmed by sta­tis­tics re­veal­ing most chil­dren be­lieved agri­cul­ture was bad for the en­vi­ron­ment.

Victorian Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent David Jochinke said the spend on com­mu­nity trust and ad­vo­cacy cam­paigns across the in­dus­try should be seen by farm­ers as an in­vest­ment.

“There’s been no other time in his­tory where mes­sages can be in­stan­ta­neously bounced around the in­dus­try, around con­sumers, at home and even glob­ally so we have to make sure that we’re aware of those pres­sure points and we also tell our story.”

Projects around trust and trans­parency are un­der­way in the dairy, beef and pork sec­tors, to name a few, which have all de­vel­oped ex­ten­sive stand­alone web­sites and me­dia con­tent about their pro­duc­tion sys­tems.

Most of the web­sites have in­cred­i­ble graph­ics cost hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to build and main­tain over the years.

Big bucks are also be­ing thrown at con­sul­tants to help farm­ers man­age fu­ture so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal risks, with lobby groups try­ing to stay ahead of con­sumers in­creas­ingly de­mand­ing more trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity from farm­ers.

So big is the ‘com­mu­nity trust’ is­sue now that re­search and devel­op­ment com­pany AgriFu­tures Aus­tralia has just started a three-year project, funded by farm-levy bod­ies, to get a han­dle on com­mu­nity sen­ti­ment around farm­ing and ad­vise in­dus­try groups how to man­age their own trust con­cerns.

Aus­tralian Pork Lim­ited pol­icy man­ager Deb Kerr said the pork in­dus­try de­vel­oped its con­sumer trust site, Aussie Pig Farm­ers, be­cause it had been ac­cused of not be­ing trans­par­ent.

“It has been pro­duced to tell peo­ple what we do; it’s an open door to our in­dus­try,” Ms Kerr said.

She said the cost to de­velop the site had been sig­nif­i­cant and the project would be on­go­ing.

Dairy Aus­tralia project Dairy Mat­ters is an ex­ten­sive ad­ver­tis­ing and con­sumer aware­ness cam­paign so far cost­ing $1.3 mil­lion.

DA com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Glenys Zucco says main­tain­ing com­mu­nity trust is “key to an in­dus­try’s so­cial li­cence and a farmer’s free­dom to op­er­ate”.

Ms Zucco said pro­mot­ing the prod­uct ben­e­fits was im­por­tant, but “trust is built by pro­vid­ing cred­i­ble and trans­par­ent in­for­ma­tion on all as­pects of the sup­ply chain”.

While not as vis­i­ble but still costly, many in­dus­try groups are draw­ing up what’s known as ‘sus­tain­abil­ity frame­works’ to help plan for and man­age fu­ture con­sumer-driven risks to the in­dus­try.

Grain Grow­ers has ap­pointed a top-shelf con­sul­tancy KPMG to “iden­tify, mea­sure and re­port on the sus­tain­abil­ity pri­or­i­ties of Aus­tralia’s grains in­dus­try” so it too can build com­mu­nity con­fi­dence in Aus­tralian grains.

Sheep Pro­duc­ers Aus­tralia and WoolPro­duc­ers Aus­tralia an­nounced in July they were also jointly de­vel­op­ing a sus­tain­abil­ity frame­work “to im­prove trans­parency and build trust with the Aus­tralian com­mu­nity by align­ing in­dus­try prac­tices and com­mu­nity ex­pec­ta­tions”.

Fol­low­ing a suc­cess­ful pi­lot pro­gram last year, Rabobank and Cen­tral Queens­land Univer­sity an­nounced they would of­fer train­ing to Victorian teach­ers to help in­te­grate agri­cul­ture into the mod­ern cur­ricu­lum.

Pic­ture: FILE

FARMER FIGHTBACK: 50 cam­paigns are in the pipe­line to pro­mote and jus­tify Aus­tralia’s farm­ers..

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