Building Consumer trust in Agriculture ? An international perspective and a cotton case study

Thursday, 22nd December 2011 // Breaking News // Comments (0)

Cotton Australia recently participated in a workshop hosted by NSW DPI and the Australia Pacific Extension Network.

The workshop is one of a series of engagements Charlie Arnot, from the Centre of Food Integrity in the USA, is conducting on the concept of social license and building trust, understanding and confidence in agriculture.

Charlie Arnot was in Australia as the key note speaker for the Australasia – Pacific Extension National Forum. Charlie is an internationally recognised and thought provoking speaker with unsurpassed experience in building trust and confidence in our agriculture and food systems.

The workshop focussed on the need for agriculture to better communicate with its audiences, and to do so from a value – based approach. It looked at the methodologies used by the Center for Food Integrity to build consumer trust and confidence and its applicability to agricultural industries and the issues faced in Australia.

The workshop explored positive and tested strategies to deal with the challenging environment of consumer and community engagement activists and anticipatory issues management. Advances in technology and developments in size and scale of Australian agriculture as well as geographical distance, has made it difficult for consumers to relate to agriculture.

The concept of AGvocacy (agricultural advocacy) via media/ social media was explored and the notion of telling the story of agriculture in the right way, i.e. portraying agriculture positively rather than through typical negative and sometimes ‘shocking’ farming stories that can be featured in the media (e.g. relating to animal welfare). 

These issues are addressed in a book recently published by CSIRO, ‘Defending the Social Licence of Farming’, indicating that the concept of social license is not new, however it is becoming of increasing importance to farmers and agricultural industries. Farmers are increasingly expected to demonstrate their social and environmental responsibility in continuing to carry out farming practices. Current examples include the live animal export trade, battles over protection of aquifers from mining, and contests over rural carbon emissions.

The book features a cotton case study, using the industry as a positive example in successfully retaining a social license and addressing consumer perceptions through the use of proactive initiatives. The case study chapter is authored by Guy Roth and outlines how the use of innovations, technology and development of the Cotton BMP program have been part of a cost effective strategy and means for ensuring environmentally conscious practices are used across the industry. 

‘Defending the Social Licence of Farming’, is edited by Jacqueline Williams and Paul Martin and is available online through CSIRO publishing, http://www.publish.csiro.au/pid/6651.htm