National Dairy Council (NDC) CEO Zoe Kavanagh is characteristically forthright on the thinking behind their new campaign 'From the Ground Up', which seeks to address consumers’ environmental concerns around dairy farming.
With various anti-farming campaigns and programmes such as RTÉ's What Planet Are You On?, many dairy farmers feel they’ve lost the trust of Irish consumers and Kavanagh is keen to tackle that disconnect.
“This is effectively an opportunity for Ireland to be the best small dairy-producing nation in the world.
“But I think we've been very busy as a sector, talking internally. We haven't had any dialogue with the consumer,” Kavanagh tells the Irish Farmers Journal.
“And yet programmes, like you just referred to [What Planet Are You On?], are capturing consumers' attention, and actually creating a lot of anxiety.
“So I think we need to just step up now and, in a very transparent way, show the consumer what Irish dairy farming is.”
The campaign will involve TV, radio and print media ads run across a number of weeks, which will highlight the green credentials of Irish dairy farming.
Basing farming on facts
However, Kavanagh is keen to show that the campaign will not be an attempt at “greenwashing”, but will reference the facts around the industry.
“Having the proof points to back-up the communication is essential, because we don't want to be accused of greenwashing,” Kavanagh explains.
“And our farmers, you know, have been subject to a significant level of auditing for a number of years now.
“And actually, what we'd love to do is take the relevant orders data and show the path of progress in the areas that can't just say soil, water, nutrient management, grass growth, days out on grass. I think that as a system, we're ready to do that now.”
Some 65% of the NDC is funded through a 0.07c/l levy on Irish dairy farmers from certain dairy processors, which amounts to €3.5m, with a further €2m from Europe.
But Kavanagh says despite this funding, many people would be shocked to learn that the dairy sector does not make it into the top 50 advertisers in Ireland.
“We need to invest in reconnecting the consumer with the dairy farmer.
“So if, for example, we moved from a 65% representation model to 100% reputation representation model, we believe in the next year we could move to a top-50 advertising space.
“And then in year two and year three, move to a top party advertising space. And that's the point where you have impact,” she explains.
For the time being, the NDC will be looking for farmer ambassadors to be part of the campaign which will be rolled out from Tuesday 13 April.