In recent editions of the Irish Farmers Journal, we had the news of supply restrictions being brought in by Glanbia in response to an An Taisce planning objections, details of a PR drive by the NDC to “re-connect the consumer with the dairy farmer” and a letter from Mike Magan in relation to the Government’s carbon emission targets.
These topics share a common thread – we have failed to tell our story and an unfair, negative perception of farming has been allowed to develop among the public.
If there was a more positive feeling among the public towards agriculture, An Taisce would have been on much shakier ground making this objection. Their social licence to take this action would have been weak.
The same can be said of the climate action bill. Policymakers will always check the public mood when making decisions. Hopefully there is still time to bring some reality to bear here.
This is not about “green washing”. What it is about is explaining to the public what we do.
We have nothing to hide. It’s easy to tell the truth and it’s even easier to tell a good story. Livestock grazing grass outside, for most of the year, is as good as it gets in terms of food production and the science backs it up.
Are the organisations that represent us to the public adequately resourced to tell our story?
The NDC is funded by a 0.07c/l levy. That’s 0.2% or 1/500th of the current milk price. Coca-Cola’s equivalent marketing budget is 12%! Also, why are all our co-ops not contributing to the NDC?
Agri Aware has a budget of €500,000, relative to an industry output of nearly €15bn. That’s 0.03%!
While Agri Aware does not speak to the consumers of our exported product, it does speak to the general public who grant us our social licence.
A licence soon to be curtailed, if some have their way, in the form of the climate action bill.
Do we need, as Mike alluded to in his letter, a type of agricultural forum that is more proactive than reactive to such issues?
A sort of agricultural council of elders, that keeps an eye on the industry from afar.
That would have the knowledge and experience to foresee such issues, and give a gentle nudge here or bit of advice there, before a trickle turns into a flood.