Rachel Harding, Media and Communication Consultant
Many have embraced Labor’s recent election win, yet regional Queensland remains the heartland for the Coalition.
Seventy per cent of federal seats in the state were retained by the LNP, prompting the agriculture industry to question the inner-city electorates’ embrace of the Greens. Will this deepen the regional divide between the city and the bush?
One could argue the election results show the divide is closing. Agriculture is embedded in our nation’s character and economy, and we have long recognised that when our farmers and producers are strong, the whole country is strong.
But the ag industry cops an unfair level of responsibility for carbon emissions in Australia - a lot of which is undeserved and uninformed. The public discourse on environmental issues is moving further away from farmers, who, as the participants in society who live and work on the land, are being pressured to adapt.
Consumer perceptions (or misperceptions) of food production is one of the driving factors behind the city-bush divide. Once upon a time, everyone seemed to know a relative who lived on a farm and visited during the school holidays. Nowadays, there’s less of that connection, and we are seeing less of that knowledge and understanding being passed on because of that disconnect with where food is produced.
This is troubling for agriculture, but there is also reason to be optimistic. Australians feel positive about the food they eat. Generally speaking, we have access to safe, healthy food produced by trusted and experienced farmers.
But what consumers don’t know is how food is produced. We have a rudimentary knowledge gap between urban dwellers and the food production system, which leaves us suspectable to misinformation.
While we are seeing people become more engaged with the food they eat, at the same time, we are also seeing people publish their opinions about food and the climate with little regard for the businesses and families at the grass roots of the industry.
It is paramount then, that stories of our rural communities and agriculture industry need to be proactively and easily accessed by its urban neighbours.
The Rural Press Club of Queensland has been doing just that. Since 1972, the Club has emphasised the importance of sharing the stories of our farmers, producers and agribusiness with consumers, simultaneously validating the work of rural journalists and the rural communities behind the stories they share.
Rural journalism is the conduit we need to connect the city and the bush. It plays a vital role in supporting the regions throughout droughts, bushfires, floods and the pandemic; rural news has been the tool that unites us to address these challenges. To ensure public discourse is constructive towards achieving effective climate policy, we need rural journalists to not only continue the conversations with the people living and working on the land, but also inspire the next generation of agriculture leaders and innovators.
In educating society through storytelling about food production chains and how to recognise and improve environmental management strategies, we can invest in long-term climate management outcomes of the land we live on, and deliver sustainable, high-quality food products to the market.
As a country, we need to make a conscious effort to connect with regional communities and be open and willing to understand their stories.