Opinion: Public communication has never been more important

With the future of the country still uncertain, one thing is clear: government support for farming post-Brexit will look very different.

A key part of future government policy will see an end to direct payments by 2027, to be replaced by the Environmental Land Management system (ELMs) with farmers receiving public money based on the provision of public goods.

See also: Let’s ‘champion the farmed environment’ ahead of Brexit

These changes offer huge opportunities for the farming sector, enabling it to further its substantial economic, social and environmental contributions and at the same time strengthening the UK’s capability to feed itself and the world.

This would also mean a boost to the nation’s wealth and wellbeing.

Naturally, this means it will be more important than ever for British farmers to communicate and connect with the public about their capabilities and high standards of farming.

Not just as food producers but as custodians of the countryside and providers of vital ecosystem services, including healthy soils, clean water, better air quality, improved biodiversity, higher animal welfare standards and public access.  

Communication will be vital as we navigate this new political landscape. With our world-leading production and animal welfare standards, we have much to be proud of.

Now, and in the future, farmers need to speak out in order to raise public awareness and understanding of what farming delivers and why it matters.

British people expect high animal welfare standards, responsible environmental stewardship and good-quality, traceable and affordable food.

They want cleaner air and water, healthy soils, plants and animals which are thriving, and a well-managed countryside. They want reassurance that farmers are putting the environment first.  

But farmers need to have the skills, confidence and know-how to communicate effectively, to share best practice, show techniques, explain production, talk about trade-offs and demonstrate how farming creates and sustains environmental good.

Whether it is communicating in person, through farm visits, presentations and talks, on paper, online, in the media or through photos, film and social media, farmers need to use every avenue open to them to tell, as well as sell, our British farming industry.

Initiatives like LEAF’s Speak Out Roadshow and its new online communications toolkit are enabling and empowering farmers to have a voice, engage with the public and make a difference.

It is time to take the lead and really champion the UK farming industry. We need to pull together to reconnect farming with the British public and celebrate the reasons British people should be proud of Britain’s farmers. 

Let us shout about how we are leading the way in providing safe, nutritious food, protecting and improving the environment, delivering world-leading science and innovation and setting gold standards in protecting and growing natural capital. 

We are facing a new era for farming and there are big issues to be addressed.

What is certain is that British farming will need the full support of the public. A truly collaborative approach will be required and, crucially, one which is underpinned by expert farmer communicators, speaking out for our industry with confidence, passion and positivity. 

LEAF’s Speak Out Roadshow runs from 24 April to the 10 May 2019

Caroline Drummond is chief executive of the sustainable food and farming group LEAF

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