Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Jamison offers farmers tips on advocating for animal agriculture

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 12/27/2012 8:40 AM

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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Farmers need to learn how to run an effective campaign against groups who oppose what they do, Wes Jamison said at the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting.

Jamison, a communication professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida, delivered an address to members on Dec. 1.

The issue of animal welfare will come to Minnesota soon, he said, and those who run those campaigns are good at reaching their intended audience: Pet owners.

This is not a Republican or Democratic issue, Jamison said, but one that breaks along the lines of pet ownership.

When these groups come to Minnesota, they will say they are for the animals, what are you for?

In consumers' minds, this establishes these groups as pro-animal, Jamison said.

He has spent 23 years studying the communication techniques employed by groups who are anti-agriculture. He told the Farm Bureau members gathered in Bloomington that anti-agriculture groups are good at what they do.

"They know how to speak consumer, they know how to talk consumer," he said. "They know how to communicate in a certain way to illicit certain responses to get consumers to believe certain things and we in agriculture think all we have to do is tell the truth."

Farmers have to understand they are in a campaign to protect what they for a living.

They need to employ strategies used by political campaigns: Know your target audience, your strategy, your message and your friends. Use a rifle approach, rather than a shotgun, he said.

Farmers also need to understand that Americans increasingly view animal agriculture through the prism of pet ownership.

"The issue is that Americans fundamentally view agriculture differently than the way you do," Jamison said. "You view as it as a business, that you actually have to make a profit . . . They view it as something entirely different."

Consumers are consumer hypocrites, he said. They have one animal at the center of their lives and another at the center of their plate.

A recent survey shows that Americans will spend from $4,000 to $104,000 on a pet over the pet's 12-year lifespan.

Anti-agriculture groups realize the gulf in understanding between consumers and farmers and they use it to their advantage.

They create a problem, make the target audience feel responsible and then give them a way to offset their guilt by donating money or time.

Farmers can fight back by offering their own simple, relevant and repetitious messages, Jamison said. The messages must be simple enough that target audiences will understand it. It must also be relevant to their everyday experience. Third, repeat it often.