Few things are more frustrating to farmers than hearing someone outside agriculture criticize them and the way they produce crops, care for their animals, or manage their land. Those who make their living in agriculture understand how difficult and risky farming is, and how much farmers and their families sacrifice to keep the general population clothed and fed.
In 2009, the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation decided to create a television advertising campaign targeting consumers with messaging which would place farmers and agriculture in a fact-based and much-deserved positive light. The MFBF recently celebrated the campaign’s 10-year anniversary and extended its appreciation to the group of agricultural organizations whose sponsorship dollars have made the television and billboard campaign possible.
“I’m extremely proud of this coordinated effort and the educational impact it is having on consumers,” says Josh Miller, a Mississippi farmer and current chairman of the MFBF Communications Committee. “Our sponsors fund this campaign that includes 2,500 television spots and over 100 billboards by the various roads and highways across our state each year.”
Those involved with envisioning and creating the campaign understood this could not be a one-time effort. To be effective, the campaign had to have longevity, and thanks to a cadre of dedicated sponsors who understand and believe in what the MFBF is doing, the Farm Families of Mississippi campaign has achieved that longevity. “Much of the general population does not understand or appreciate the importance agriculture has on their daily lives because they have never been food-deprived,” says Miller. “Outdoor advertising company Lamar Advertising estimates over 33 million cars have passed our 100 billboards. That is an incredible number of impressions.”
Agriculture is the largest industry in Mississippi, even though farmers make up only 1 percent of the state’s population. Mississippi’s agricultural industry collectively employs over 26 percent of the state’s work force. “It’s truly the only industry our state can’t survive without,” adds Miller.
2019 Campaign and Social Media
Food safety, food affordability, and how farmers work to minimize their farms’ environmental footprint have been some of the message points on which past campaigns were based. In 2018, the Communications Committee decided to broach some hot button topics. “We included some ‘edgy’ but much-needed messaging on GMOs and how they have reduced crop protection applications by 8 percent while increasing yields by 22 percent,” says Miller. “The commercial scripts also included information about how the proper use of antibiotics increases food safety — with one farm wife confidently stating, ‘We give our children and our cows the medicines ordered by their doctors.’”
The commercials remind viewers the United States Department of Agriculture has so many safeguards in place to ensure meats and other foods do not contain antibiotic residue. In one commercial, Macon, Miss., farm wife Sarah Huerkamp reminds consumers about the science-based fact that foods produced with GMO seeds and varieties are just as safe as foods from non-GMO crops. “Hundreds of scientific studies have proven them to be nutritionally the same,” says Huerkamp, the daughter of Will McCarty, one of the most respected Extension and research professors in the history of Mississippi agriculture.
The MFBF advanced its social media footprint significantly this year and will build on that success in 2019. “Through our social media platforms, we were able to reach those who errantly criticized GMOs and farming,” says Miller. “Social media allows farmers, instead of our staff, to refute unsubstantiated criticism, which has a lot more impact with the public.”
In addition to the large number of ag business-related sponsors, the Mississippi Department of Transportation continues to offer “Farm Families of Mississippi” car tags to residents. A portion of the tag’s cost is returned to the MFBF advertising campaign. “It’s just another way we can fund this important program,” adds Miller.
At a recent luncheon in Greenwood, Miss., MFBF staff presented awards to Delta Farm Press and Live Oaks Planting Company for the five-year commitment they have made to this important campaign. “Delta Farm Press understands the importance of this campaign, and their coverage of agriculture across the Delta is an important extension of it,” concludes Miller.