Thursday, 25 January 2018 05:50

Tiffin Conference tackles agric. misinformation

Written by  J.W. Schnarr — Southern Alberta Newspapers
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Information in the Age of Misinformation was served up to attendees of this year’s Tiffin Conference.

This is the 19th iteration of the event, which took place at Lethbridge Lodge Jan. 18  and was sponsored by Lethbridge College. While the past few years have focused on the red meat industry, this year the majority of the conference covered fake news in agriculture – though not intentionally.
“This year, just with the way our speaker lineup (came together), it’s more of an overall agriculture thing,” said Kathy Waddell, Tiffin Conference co-ordinator
As a result, this year’s event features valuable information for producers from all areas of agriculture, from meats to grains and produce.
Speaker Elaine Froese is a certified family business coach who helps farm families work through tough issues to take action.
Some of that experience includes helping families navigate generational challenges. An example might be a farm owned by a grandparent that is being farmed by that person’s children or grandchildren. Or a situation where farm ownership takes a lateral move between siblings or other relatives in the same generation.
“Sometimes there are a lot of upset people,” said Waddell. “Sometimes farm transition does not go smoothly.”
The issue is something that, sooner or later, will affect all farm families.
Speaker Cherilyn Nagel spoke on building up the public trust and how to fight the misinformation by groups opposed to agriculture practices.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there about what happens in agriculture,” said Waddell. “So we have to be better at being our own best cheerleaders.”
The talk included information on how to advocate and how to correct that misinformation when it comes up.
“Unfortunately, for many years we have been reactive to situations and we have to be much more proactive rather than having to scramble to release a statement to correct misinformation.”
Waddell said organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or the United States Humane Society.
“Huge dollars in their budgets are spent on lobbyists,” said Waddell. “And not to build dog shelters and things like that.”
Nagel’s background includes time as the president of the Canadian Wheat Growers Association and being featured in Saskbusiness Magazine as being one of Saskatchewan’s most influential women. She is an international director for the Global Former Network.
Joe Schwarcz is director of the Office for Science and Society at McGill University, and has received a number of awards for teaching chemistry and for interpreting science for the public.
“He speaks a lot about what science is doing and how that gets misconstrued in the public and the media,” said Waddell. “Especially TV news or the online stuff, because it goes for the sound bite or the flashy headline.”
The fourth speaker was Greg Peterson, a farmer from Kansas who, along with his brothers, have been able to use social media to advocate for farmers.
“They’re really working to encourage young farmers to stand up (for agriculture),” said Waddell.
Attendees to the event include agriculture students and those in the field, from producers to ag-business reps, to politicians representing the ag industry.

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