Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Myth of Public (Mis)trust


Inherently suspicious of things that exist primarily as a reaction and opposition to some other specific thing, my response to seeing the Farm Babe as the keynote speaker at the PEI Soil & Crop Association’s 2019 Conference was unenthused, to say the least.
And it’s not her specifically that underwhelms me but what she represents, which is to say the entire ‘public trust’ indoctrination. Remember ‘social license’? That’s what public trust used to be known as, but the powers that be decided that ‘license’ sounded too formal and confusing for consumers, so ‘public trust’ was born. And born it was!  It exploded onto the agriculture scene and was immediately hailed by most as the magic pill to fix all that ails modern ag.  It’s not the farming practices, the food system or the changing climate; it’s stupid people!  If everyone would just eat what they were told, continue to support cheaply made food and not ask any questions, finally, agriculture would be saved!

Public trust is a tool of corporate agribusiness, not for the public, but for farmers, to bolster them in the practices that make those companies so much money.  It creates a soundproof echo chamber in which the inhabitants grow increasingly convinced that they are right and anyone questioning them is a threat. We have reached an uncharted point in human history, which is to say, the first time that farm groups are telling consumers that they’re wrong.

So a farm group spending money on amplifying a voice within the echo chamber isn’t surprising, but given the public outrage over the PEI soil blowing across the countryside, and the climate change challenges ahead, if true public trust were in order we’d be spending far more time and money figuring out why we tore out all the hedgerows and how to put them back in. Investing in more self congratulations and pats on the back in times like this is like lighting a candle while the house burns down around you. 
These are the funders of Canada's public trust ag train.  All aboard?

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