I heard agriculture’s battle cry today when talking to an industry spokesperson on the phone. Funny thing though, she wasn’t representing agriculture. She was part of an organization that is seeking to educate the public on the importance of oil and natural gas production here in Kansas. During the course of our conversation, she talked about poor public perception, misconceptions and “allowing others to tell their story.” Odd, I’ve heard those words somewhere before, maybe at my last Farm Bureau meeting or while taking to Block and Bridle students at K-State. Sounds to me like we all have the same battle cry and are fighting the same enemy: public perception.
Consumers are impressionable people – agriculture learned that lesson the hard way. They take what they hear at face value and often don’t bother to check the facts and find the other side of the story. Outside organizations, likely the same ones that seek to end animal agriculture and control dust in the air, are also fighting against oil and natural gas production and just like agriculture, the oil industry has been on the losing end for years.
But they are fighting back and so are we. They are using many of the same methods, message and mediums as agriculture and conveying the same message. Their industry is essential to your everyday life. Ironically, agriculture and the oil and natural gas industries are the state’s top two employers and both major financial contributors to the state’ revenue buckets. They are both big targets with plenty of people throwing stones their way.
So maybe it’s an I’ll scratch your back if you scratch my back kind of thing. Being part of agriculture and knowing how damaging even simple comments and misconceptions are, we should be able to understand the importance of consumer behavior and educating the public on the facts.
We all have negative perceptions of a product, industry or social movement but are those perceptions rooted in logic and fact or basic human emotion and gossip? Are there harmful industries and products that do not deserve a place on our shelves? Sure, but are also there dozens of other industries just like agriculture that are struggle to make themselves heard while sweeping away the junk and lies that have littered their message. It’s all the same fight, just different venues.
I’m guilty of being ill-informed, but I also believe that if we all try to better educate ourselves we can help one another and help to stop evil public perception from taking down yet another industry.