New NFU campaign does what it says on the tin

I like the new NFU Campaign, “Farming Delivers“.

At the risk of mixing branding metaphors, it does what it says on the tin. The simple underlining message being that you can depend on UK farming.

In a week when the nation celebrates the Queen’s jubilee, if asked to explain “Farming Delivers” to a man on the street, what better comparison than to Her Majesty the Queen. Think British Farming, think Queen: dependable, honourable, and having the best interest of the “country” at heart.

In the past 60 years, Queen Elizabeth has defined the monarchy by her moral compass, her staunch defence of Britain’s heritage, rising to the challenges that have beset her and grooming a path for the future.

So if “Farming Delivers” is a collective adjective that defines UK farmers – and as a whole we are seen united and upholding the same standards for food production and the countryside, then this must be a good thing.

Besides, as we all enjoy our extended bank holiday, perhaps it is fitting to think the countryside and the monarchy are the two most influential adverts for the UK tourist industry.

Any campaign that pitches a collaborative and cohesive message is a good one. But this does beg a question, aside this particular campaign. Why does the farming industry continue to spend time and money duplicating information and initiatives?

Last week a farming friend was asked if he had a spare 10 minutes to do a survey. Strangely, he did; in my experience these calls usually occur when you are about to sit down to Sunday lunch.

The survey was about the Little Red Tractor. Should the LRT place more emphasis on schools? A valid question, but when asked why it would want to do such a thing, my friend was told that it is their intention to develop their education role.

Had the questioner heard of FACE – Farming and Countryside Education? Yes, came the reply. So why try and duplicate a tried and tested solution? FACE is seen by schools as a one-stop shop for all curriculum needs with regards to food and farming. It can talk in a language that the teacher understands, it has helped shape the curriculum, and most importantly, it realises the importance of making a teacher’s life easier. All this seemed to fall on deaf ears.

But the Little Red Tractor is not alone. When Jeff Rooker announced the launch of the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board in 2008, the purpose was to restructure the levy boards and “to ensure better value for money through efficiency and effectiveness”.

At that time, each division (HGCA, BPEX, EBLEX, Potato Council, DairyCo and Horticultural Development Council) had its own education team. And although the AHDB has recently reviewed its education strategy, all six still exist today. There appears to have been little further consolidation.

As a levy payer, I do not understand why there is such inertia and resistance towards bringing all these education divisions together? Is it because they don’t draw a distinct line between education and marketing? Is the current structure in the best interest of education or indeed the best use of levy money? A collective message would surely be less confusing, yet more cost-effective.

The NFU campaign will show that a simple united message can deliver. Similar but disjointed initiatives will not necessarily reinforce a message. They are more likely to fragment it and confuse the public further.

Ian Pigott farms 700ha in Hertfordshire. The farm is a LEAF demonstration unit, with 130ha of organic arable. Ian is also the founder of Open Farm Sunday.

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