Community keeps faith in fishers, farmers and foresters

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The results of a national survey highlight a continuation of community trust in the farming, fisheries and forestry sectors as well as increased support that these industries are willing to change in response to public concerns.

Data science company Voconiq have captured the views of more than 19,000 Australians as part of the survey on a wide range of topics and issues related to rural industries, focusing on the drivers and influences of trust over the past three years.

AgriFutures Australia Managing Director John Harvey said the results show there is an opportunity for rural industries to be proactive, collaborating to build on the strong trust and acceptance that currently exists.

Key insights from the Year Three National Survey include:

  • Australians not only value rural industries but understand that regional community strength and resilience is fundamental to their success.
  • 88% of community members agreed that rural industries are important to our way of life.
  • Rural industries are seen as strong drivers of employment in regional areas, with 82.6% of participants agreeing they generate significant local jobs in regional areas.
  • 80% of Australians see fishers, farmers and foresters as responsible stewards of the land and sea, and believe environmental management is a shared responsibility amongst all rural industries.

Lead researcher and Voconiq CEO, Dr Kieren Moffat, said trust acts as a lead indicator of community acceptance for rural industries, re-emphasising the need to focus on building trust as a means for managing social risk for these industries.

“The relationship between rural industries and community members is more complex than in preceding years and the extent to which the community feels rural industries are willing to listen and change their practices in response to community concerns, has continued to increase since 2019.”

But while responsiveness of rural industries and environmental responsibility remain the two strongest drivers of trust and acceptance, the survey identified several issues that are now more important to the community than in the first two years of the Program, in 2019 and 2020.
These include concerns about the use of chemicals in rural industries, animal welfare, confidence in the regulation of rural industries and community knowledge about the challenges facing rural industries.

Partners in the Community Trust in Rural Industries Program acknowledge the survey results confirm that genuine responses from industry to community attitudes, particularly regarding environmental sustainability and resource use, are the key to maintaining and continuing to build trust.

Grains Research and Development Corporation Managing Director Nigel Hart said the project has given the organisation a clearer understanding of what leads to and drives community trust in rural industries.

“This research indicates that peoples’ firsthand connection and knowledge of individual farmers helps them understand the ‘why’ behind many of the practices that are beneficial to Australia’s agricultural sector,” Mr Hart said.

“It also shows that repeatedly telling people why farmers do what they do, is not the answer to building trust, particularly about emotional topics like genetically modified products.

“So, we need to use these results to help better understand how we can work to share our stories and engage in meaningful conversation with community members and continue to build trust and knowledge of the agricultural sector.”

Animal welfare continues to be an important issue for rural industries and most Australians feel rural industries share this concern. Around 70% of community members acknowledge that animal welfare in rural industries is a complex issue and is not just about the absence of harm to animals (average 75% in all three years of research).

“While we are making positive impacts on the way people perceive Australian fisheries and seafood industries, we still have work to do. Community trust and visibility of our industries is critical to our commitment to social responsibility,” said Dr Patrick Hone, Managing Director, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.

“The collaborative approach allows us to better understand what drives community trust in our industries, and work together long-term to address critical shared issues, in response to community concerns,” Dr Hone said.

For more information on the survey results, visit: https://agrifutures.com.au/national-rural-issues/community-trust/

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