How can farmers build trust: GRDC Wagga Wagga Update

Author: | Date: 13 Feb 2019

image of Heather Bray
Heather Bray from the University of Western Australia (UWA) will be one of the keynote speakers at the GRDC Grains Research Update in Wagga Wagga next Tuesday (Feb 20) and will be talking to growers about how they can build trust, secure social licence and build confidence in farming. Photo Supplied.

Building urban communities’ trust of agriculture requires more than education campaigns to improve people’s knowledge and understanding – rather, success hinges on highlighting the ‘values’ the two sectors share, according to a leading social researcher.

Heather Bray from the University of Western Australia (UWA) will be one of the keynote speakers at the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) Grains Research Update in Wagga Wagga next week.

A lecturer in science communication, Dr Bray has researched community attitudes to the use of science and technology in food production, and at the Update she will discuss how to build trust in agriculture, secure social licence and build confidence in farming.

“Growing community interest in food production and its impact on the environment has placed food producers and their practices under increasing public scrutiny,” Dr Bray said.

“Recent social research shows communities are generally supportive of food producers, but this support is fragile and there is concern about some farm practices.

“Generally, Australians have low levels of knowledge about agriculture, however, knowing more about a topic does not mean that you will feel positively about that topic.

“Trust in agriculture is not motivated by high levels of knowledge, so the distrust cannot be managed by educating the community more about farming practices. To build trust, agricultural industries need to be trustworthy.”

Dr Bray said it was critical to understand the nature of trust, including the idea that producers had been entrusted with the care of shared resources and were managing those resources responsibly and responsively.

“The urban community has entrusted food producers with producing safe and healthy food by responsibly managing shared resources, such as land and water, and considering the welfare of other things that they care about, such as animals, and the environment,” she said.

“Trust is essentially putting something we care about into the care of others and hoping they will not do anything to harm it. We are trusting them to make the right decisions for the right reasons.

“Communicating the values that are shared between food producers and the community, and portraying food producers as responsive to community concerns, are key to building trust between the two sectors.”

Dr Bray will be presenting on day two (Wednesday, February 20) of the GRDC Grains Research Update in Wagga Wagga.

Key topics on day one of the Update include: insights into how the National Paddock Survey is helping to guide farm management decisions, presented by Harm van Rees from Crop Facts Pty Ltd; solutions to nitrogen and soil organic matter decline, with Jeff Baldock from CSIRO; and chemical regulation in Australia and what is likely to come under scrutiny in the future presented by Richard Holzknecht, GRDC.

Day two topics on the agenda include: the scale and significance of herbicide residues in the soil by Mick Rose, from New South Wales Department of Primary Industries; and Canadian farmers Jordan and Jennifer Lindgren detailing their first-hand experience of using farm-scale trials to guide their decision making.

Other presentations will feature: early sown winter wheats (Felicity Harris, NSW DPI); Russian wheat aphid update (Jessica Lye, cesar); companion cropping – what it means and why consider it (Greg Condon, Grassroots Agronomy); utilising precision agriculture for better agronomic decisions (Quenten Knight, Agronomy Focus); super high oleic oil safflower (Rosemary Richards, Go Resources); canola agronomy (Rohan Brill, NSW DPI); and post drought pasture management (Jeff McCormick, Charles Sturt University).

The southern NSW updates will be held at:

*           Wagga Wagga – February 19 and 20 at Joyes Hall, Charles Sturt University

*           Corowa – February 21, Corowa RSL Club.

GRDC Grains Research Updates will also be held at Dubbo on February 26 and 27 (Dubbo RSL Club); Coolah on February 28 (Coolah Sporting Club); and Spring Plains on March 1 (Spring Plains Hall).

For a full list of Update speakers and topics, or to register, go to

Contact Details

For Interviews

Matt McCarthy, ORM
03 5441 6176


Toni Somes, GRDC
0436 622 645

GRDC Project code: ORM0004