Field

Public Trust Discussion Paper

Public Trust, as pertaining to agriculture, is the extent to which the public/consumers trust the value chains which produce their food and other agriculture products.  With various avenues available to consumers to find out information, many companies, activists groups and self-proclaimed experts are telling a story about agriculture, but not necessarily the true story about agriculture in Nova Scotia.

According to recent census data, the Nova Scotia population is continuing to out-migrate from rural regions of Nova Scotia to urbanized centres.  This alludes to that not only are Nova Scotians further removed from agriculture by another generational degree, they are also becoming further distanced from rural life and understanding the socio-economic importance of agriculture and spin-off industries.

Activist organizations have misrepresented themselves to get on farm and post misleading information about the agriculture industry.  These organizations tend to be extreme; their messages must either be countered or optimally, agriculture has a message out in front.  Statistics show that 68% consumers trust farmers as an information source when it comes to animal welfare.  Additionally, in a 2016 study conducted by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI), 93% of Nova Scotians indicated that they know little or nothing about farming practices.

Opportunities have recently arisen to improve the trust that the public has of the agriculture industry. The addition of Public Trust in the Next Policy Framework as a pillar of the framework identifies the topic’s importance at the Federal level.  The formation of a national public trust steering committee is bringing together stakeholders across the sector including grocery chains, restaurants, farmers and more to develop a cohesive message about agriculture across all sectors.  The recently announced National Food Policy has the potential to create an opportunity to educate Canadians on how food is produced in Canada, Codes of Conduct and regulations that determine production practices while gaining trust.  Educating and informing Nova Scotians will provide transparency to the industry and in turn gain public trust.

A report entitled, ‘Building Public Trust in Canada’s Agri-Food System’, led by Kim McConnell has identified the process in which to effectively gain Public Trust for the Agriculture Industry.  The report identifies that farmers must be spreading the story about agriculture through avenues like Social Media.  Additionally, the report identifies an optimal governance structure, roles of government and who the amplifiers of agriculture messaging should be.

 

Recommendations

  • Public trust initiatives through the Next Policy Framework must focus on a collaborative approach.
  • The activities executed to garner public trust must be farmer delivered, which in turn must also be farmer initiated to ensure industry buy in.
  • Public perception of agriculture must continue to be benchmarked through the Canadian Centre of Food Integrity to ensure that public trust is being gained.