Winning over public vital

Farmers are hard-working, entrepreneurial risk taking business people.

That’s how most of us in the industry see them. But that this isn’t necessarily the general perception because the biggest enemy for farming is emotion:

Dairy farmers need to win the emotions of the public if they are to reach their potential, says a top manager at DairyNZ.

About 300 farmers, investors and researchers heard the latest on dairying at the NZ Dairy Business Conference in Palmerston North last week. The conference was organised by dairy farmers for farmers.

DairyNZ’s manager of sustainability Rick Pridmore said a major threat to dairying was poor perception, which could restrict future growth, and its reputation on the international market.

“How do we turn that into an opportunity – the biggest enemy is emotion,” he said.

“Public perception is largely based on emotion.”

The way to combat that was to remove poor performers and to deal with things such as animal welfare, nutrient run off and effluent management.

Just how strong those emotions are is illustrated by the editor’s note in this month’s Countrywide (not yet online).

Terry Brosnahan wrote about a conversation with a passenger on a plane which was civil until Terry said he edited a farming magazine:

At that point his demeanour changed and from him came a tirade of abuse towards farmers. to him farmers were greedy polluters who profiteered from the high price of milk and meat. They had little regard for struggling Kiwi families even though farmers had received millions in handouts from taxpayers for adverse climatic events. . .

This anti-farming rhetoric is nothing new (though never as intense). A growing number of city dwellers are expressing anti-farming sentiments as economic times get tougher and jealousy rears its ugly head. these are struggling middle-income earners.

They read about high farm product prices and think farmers are rolling  in drought. they know little of the sacrifices farmer s make and the capital they risk, that it takes good management skills to run a successful farming business . . .

That doesn’t matter because as Dr Pridmore said, emotion beats facts.

There are plenty of good news stories about farming but they’re generally on the rural pages of newspapers, and in specialist publications or programmes.

Country Calendar is the exception, a rural focussed television programme that airs in prime time and highlights good farmers and farming practices.

But too often the only farming stories which hit the headlines in general media are the negative ones which feed the stereotypes and fuel the anti-farming emotions.

13 Responses to Winning over public vital

  1. Cadwallader says:

    I endorse the sentiment but it’ll be a tough call. Good luck to the farmers.


  2. ploughboy says:

    i would love the myth about taxpayer handouts for adverse climatic events to be a lye that is repeated so often it is now taken as fact


  3. robertguyton says:

    Then you’ll not be impressed by this latest display, Ele.

    Dozens of farmers walked out of an Environment Southland meeting this morning and booed the Federated Farmers Southland president when he said he supported the proposed new dairy rules.”


  4. homepaddock says:

    I don’t condone booing but I wonder if the president was giving his own view or that of members?


  5. Bushbasher says:

    Gotta watch them Southland cockies. 30 years ago they were murdering sheep in broad daylight, on the streets of Invercargill… anything can happen down there….


  6. robertguyton says:

    His own, as stated before he began. The booing was shameful, but the walking-out by Federated Farmers executive, followed by the rank and file was a greater show of ignorance, in my opinion. The refusal to stay and listen to the considered views of a fellow farmer was churlish and harmed the Feds reputation enormously. The report by the Southland Times will not do the federation any good at all. I have published Hugh Gardyne’s presentation on my blog, should you care to read what he had to say.


  7. Neil says:

    For once I agree with Robert. How stupid Mr Gardyne and the Feds were when they got to this situation. One hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing.
    Fed Farmers is a strange organization, certainly the unity between dairy farmers and sheep farmers is pretty tenuous.
    Farmer opinion is very fickle,very much self oriented,governed by cases of bullying any proposal that goes against them.
    As an ex-TLA member I can tell you how intimidating a room full of angry farmers are. The trouble is, they think they are right and everyone else is wrong. Very much a “rambo” reaction.
    I smile a bit when I realize that now Mr Gardyne is having the same kind of reactions that he used to encourage at the GDC several years ago.


  8. Neil says:

    One last question.
    Was Hugh Gardyne representing the Feds or himself ?. If he was representing Feds, as by him signing the submission, surely he was flying against Fed policy. Or was he ?
    The whole thing is like a fantasy from Disneyland !!!!
    Some of the participants remind me of Mickey Mouse and his fellow character.


  9. robertguyton says:

    Neil – though the paper is signed ‘president’, the oral presentation was prefaced by ‘speaking as an individual’. The paper was given to Councillors only. The Fed’s exec did try to shush the booers, as they shuffled rudely out of the room, but it was too late. Lumbering gruffly out on their president and fellow farmer, booing and jeering was coarse, to say the least, especially in light of the message sent to them by the exec the day before, calling for them to ” to show respect for the process that will give us moral authority going forward”.
    That ‘moral authority’ is in tatters now, though the exec has made an effort to retell the story in their favour, in today’s Southland Times.
    The next question is; was Hugh’s view representative of those farmers, and they are the majority, who were not in the room? The Feds who did turn up were far fewer in number than expected and fewer than at the first meeting. Though they were surly, they were few. My information is that farmers around the region are not spooked by the new rule and are not supportive of the Feds stance.
    Don Nicolson turned up yesterday as well, but was a little late for the action.


  10. homepaddock says:

    Thanks Robert. It would have been far better to have countered the arguments with facts rather than emotions.

    Neil – Robert said @ 7:09 that it was Hugh’s personal view. I don’t know what Feds’ view is but he shouldn’t have signed a personal submission as president esepcially when he didn’t appear to be representing the views of members.

    Southland Times report confirms that:


  11. Bushbasher says:

    The Southland Times has run Hugh Gardyne’s speech.

    A refreshingly honest statement, after years of Federated Farmers denial and evasion on this issue.

    They’ll probably lynch him!


  12. robertguyton says:

    And delivered in a measured, mature way, whilst being jeered and booed, Bushbasher, and having a room full of farmers walk out behind him. Hugh Gardyne has spine. His assessment, one I hope Ele will publish for the sake of transparency, as the editor of the Southland Times has done, shows that he’s not bound by ideology and has given thought to the details of the issue. The presentations of the federation’s exec; Baird, McPherson and Fraser, were the opposite. In fact, their views resulted in their having pulled out of discussions with the Council at an earlier date, claiming that they were not interested in helping to shape the proposal, but were entirely opposed to its imposition. Doug Fraser used the word ‘draconian’ to describe the transitional rule. It’s anything but. That sort of language reflects the subtlety of thinking being presented, I believe.


  13. Bushbasher says:

    Students of Orwellian double-speak would find Federated Farmers public statements a gold mine.

    Whining about an ‘urban-rural’ rift, while demanding unfettered pollution and destruction as ‘property rights’, and ‘the right to farm’.

    Baldly stating ‘farmers are the best conservationists’ while bitterly opposing SNA’s and PNA’s for rare and endangered species.

    Sadly, the old farming ethics of stewardship are being lost in Feds’ PR campaigns, which owe more to US wingnuts than real Kiwi values.

    Maybe the silent majority of farmers, who really are making an genuine effort, will get more involved and moderate these people.

    Otherwise, the Feds will continue to use their heaviest artillery to defend the worst farmers. Not a pretty sight.


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