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