26 May 1995

Public opinion still in favour

of the farmer

By Peter Bullen

DESPITE the furore over live exports, the public still regard farmers favourably, says the NFU.

A recent opinion poll commissioned by the union shows 62% of the public think "favourably" or "very favourably" about farmers.

And this is before the NFUs latest initiative – relaunching the "Welcome to the countryside" campaign. The £200,000 campaign began on Wednesday, when the first advertisements appeared in national daily papers to be followed by others in womens and consumer magazines.

Aim of ads

Aim of the ads is to invite the public to visit a local farm by simply dialling the farming hotline (0800-136173) for an information pack listing participating farms in their area.

Although hundreds of farmers have been opening their farms to the public for years, the NFU felt it was time the service was co-ordinated and publicised nationally. Nearly 600 farmers from all over England and Wales have already agreed to be featured in the NFUs list.

Announcing the campaign on Monday, NFU president Sir David Naish said a great number of people did not understand or know what was going on in the countryside. For decades farmers had concentrated on production and had ignored what people thought about the industry, but that attitude was now changing.

The NFU had made a lot of progress in the past five years in getting closer to the wider public including the extension earlier this year of its Farms for Schools programme. Its opinion polls revealed there was a lack of awareness of good farming practices even though the public still rated farmers highly.

By inviting people to come on to farms and see for themselves and ask questions about what they saw, he said he thought the industry would find it had "many, many more friends out there".

Main concern

An NFU official said they knew the public were concerned about live exports, but that didnt mean they did not support farmers. The opinion polls showed that they did. However, one of the publics main concerns was that they did not have enough opportunity to find out about farming.

The campaign was to get people to see for themselves. If farmers believed in the integrity of what they were doing they should show it to the public, listen to their concerns and answer their questions.

NFUs Harry Albright and Notts farmer Peter Gladd back the initiative.