The “Social License” is defined as when an existing project has the ongoing approval within the local community and other stakeholders, ongoing approval or broad social acceptance and, most frequently, as ongoing acceptance.
A social license has to be earned and carefully maintained.
There are two predominant areas of reason why it is becoming more topical and more difficult:
What does this mean? There are more eyes looking over our fences, but less hands tending to the land causing an increased divide between the communities on the topic of agriculture due mostly to a lack of understanding.
Farmers are a breed unto themselves; their job isn’t just a job, it’s usually their lifestyle. But farmers are people that tend to keep to themselves, who don’t want to give away too many of their secrets and just want to get that never-ending job list done. It’s fine to judge the neighbour over the fence, but you don’t like to be judged & criticized by those not standing in your paddock.
But instead of being defensive, we need to open our minds and the gates to the public, because the less that is shared from the horse’s month; the more assumptions & rumors spread and cause issues for our industry. Because let’s be honest, rumors; they always start with some element of truth; but as the story is expressed from person to person the more the story changes.
As farm sizes increase, it means there are less farmers around and that means there are fewer credible voices to share the story of their business, their farm, their systems, their produce; because who would you prefer to listen to another farmer or the chemical company about the safety of chemicals and how animals and crops are produced.
If farmers knew chemicals or a smell was bad for them, don’t you think they would the first to stop using the product, the first to say no? They are the ones handling things like this daily they would be the first to see any detrimental effects of their systems and I’d guarantee that would make them stop and tell the consumers. The public is asking farmers to stand up and share their stories, explain modern farming, because if the people on the ground won’t tell their story someone else will, and there is a fair possibility that the someone else could be all wrong and that would cause more damage than anything else.
Every time the government introduces new rules and procedures people complain, farmers complain. But the truth of it is, the more farmers hide their industry from prying eyes the more concern is raised for the industry, for food security and sustainability. If people don’t understand that’s where judgement occurs.
We need to show the public our passion, our confidence in our systems, market what you do. Because if you don’t external bodies will and it’s no longer your decision and no longer your story to tell.
Farmers are the gate keepers of land in Australia and for most of them it’s the love of the land that has kept them farming. Farmers aren’t trying to destroy the environment, they’re trying to improve it for future generations. Farmers aren’t watching silently whilst animals die or get sick. I guarantee they feel it more than you, not because of the dollar value, but because they are part of the the reason the animal is alive.
We need to be less concerned about the studies and the science and look back at the practices we do today and how they have evolved and why. If our farmers don’t want to farm anymore where is our food going to come from? They need support from the consumers and in return we need to provide consumers with explanations, answers & stories, because staying silent is the reason we will lose our social licenses to operate a farm.