Complex truths, inadequate headlines

Last week’s Agribusiness 2020 conference was yet another platform highlighting how agriculture’s image in the national press is constrained by the media’s inability to convey the true complexities within a headline story.

‘Complex inter-relationships’ were identified as being behind mis-information on farming matters frequenting the mainstream media in AIC’s Robert Sheasby’s opening address.

Unfortunately, ‘complex inter-relationships’ isn’t a headline grabber.

It absolutely is an issue and something that I’ve championed during my tenure as Chairman of the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists (BGAJ).

For me, that’s the number one reason why there’s such an important role for communications and PR in technical sectors such as agriculture, the rural environment and the food supply chain.

But there’s common ground where farming and public opinion come together.

The clearest message from the BGAJ survey of public attitudes was that food standards matter.

The significance of food standards was echoed by Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Chairman of Assured Food Standards, who was speaking at Agribusiness 2020.

She pointed out that Britain is the hallmark of quality, with the Red Tractor standard rated as the highest performing assurance stamp internationally. She said this makes us the envy of fast developing nations such as China and the Middle East.

This is one clear area for British agriculture to defend its position.

But the BGAJ survey also revealed a disparity of views, such as whether a farmer’s primary purpose should be food production or environmental protection. 39% say it should be food; 29% disagree and 33% were unclear.

There’s massive opportunity for those working in the agricultural supply chain to get their message across. Here, complexity creates the grey areas in what otherwise can be simplistically conveyed as ‘right’ and ‘good’, when in reality, there’s a lot more to it.

Written by Catherine Linch

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