23 October 2001
Call to rethink image of farming

By Adrienne Francis

FARMERS should help fund up a 2m rapid rebuttal unit to debunk negative media stories about agriculture, says a new report.

Guy Smith, a Nuffield scholar who has been studying the re-branding of farming, presented his findings in London on Tuesday (23 October).

Producers should set up a public relations unit for agriculture that was well financed with cross-industry funding, he said.

It needs to be light on its feet and its remit should be to promote farmers as producers of wholesome food and as caring keepers.

Mr Smith, who is an Essex farmer, said many people had seen foot-and-mouth as evidence of something fundamentally awry with British agriculture.

Farmers had found themselves wrestling with a number of problems while coming under increased scrutiny, he added.

“Farming must be able to portray itself as clean and caring,” said Mr Smith, who has spent the past year researching the industrys image.

“The time has come for a fundamental rethink as to how farmers can project a positive image. We need new thinking and new strategies.”

Mr Smith acknowledged that funding a new media unit would be difficult but said farmers must be more pro-active in getting their message across.

One of the reasons the media is biased is because farmers respond too slowly to bad news stories about the industry, he said

Agriculture was increasingly seen by the public as a burden rather than an asset and farmers were under a permanent spotlight.

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