An independent media is indispensable to civil society organizations such as the NFU. The resources at the disposal of the NFU are miniscule when compared to that which provincial or federal governments or large corporations have at hand. The effectiveness of the NFU depends upon its ability to present its message to the public. It cannot afford to spend large sums of money on advertising or paid lobbyists.
Government and corporate definitions of reality represent only one “truth”; however, the world is a complicated place which cannot be confined to one narrative. To effectively serve farmers, the NFU analyzes and criticizes government economic and social policies and corporate business practices. However, this work is of little value if the public remains in the dark.
Two examples demonstrate the need to provide another perspective. Many politicians, journalists and “think tanks” argue that controlled marketing such as the Milk Marketing Board leads to much higher consumer prices for milk products in comparison to the United States. Interestingly, these critics fail to note that the American dairy industry is subsidized by the taxpayer. Organizations such as the NFU can work with the media to re-frame issues and provide alternate facts and analysis.
One large grocery chain employs the slogan “Your Local Market”. This implies that it serves the needs of both consumers and producers; however, upon examination, local food production has little to do with their business. The NFU-NB campaign to develop local food initiatives is a counter weight to false messaging and to have an impact, it must rely on the media.
The ideal of an effective and free media is increasingly coming into question as local editorial content shrinks and independent journalism is replaced by syndicated news services. In addition, as more people rely upon the internet for their news, it becomes an echo chamber; that is, news consumers limit themselves to sources that validate their preconceived notions.
Although the media seldom lives up to its ideal, it still represents the best hope for an open, free society. The NFU-NB will continue to provide the general public with an independent viewpoint in terms of facts, analysis and policy criticism through the media.
-Ted Wiggans, NFU-NB President