The Community Trust in Rural Industries Program

The Community Trust in Rural Industries Program is a collaborative partnership* involving 10 Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs), the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) to build the capacity of food and fibre industries to productively engage with the community.

The trust landscape has shifted significantly in recent times. No business sector can rely solely on their financial contribution to the economy, job creation, innovative technologies or strong values as a benchmark for best practice. Increasingly, the public are influencing benchmarks for best practice. Unless industries can effectively engage with the public on issues and values important to them, in a transparent and consistent manner, then community trust will be compromised and so will the ability to do business effectively.

What is community trust?

Community trust relates to the nature of the relationship between industries and the social context in which they operate. Decreasing trust can lead to reduced industry productivity, profitability, and sustainability resulting from increased regulation, limited market access, and disincentives to invest in infrastructure, among other consequences.

“A farmer’s freedom to operate is enabled by an industry’s social licence, defined as the privilege of operating with minimal formalised restrictions based on maintaining community trust.”

“Building trust isn’t just giving consumers more science, more research or more information…. Research shows it’s about demonstrating that you share their values when it comes to topics they care about most – safe food, quality nutrition, outstanding animal care and environmental stewardship.”

How will the Program address community trust?

The Program is a capacity building initiative to drive a productive and cohesive response to changes in cross-sector community trust.

Over an initial three-year period, community research will be undertaken by VoconiQ (powered by CSIRO) to provide insights on cross-sector issues and best practice approaches – the first round of results will be delivered in late 2019. Ongoing engagement will be conducted to make research outputs available as an input to food and fibre industries developing their own strategies.

What will this Program deliver?

  • An analysis of the full spectrum of underlying values driving community attitudes and trust towards food and fibre production
  • A common language and collective national narrative across industry sectors around the community trust challenge
  • Development of capability across industry sectors to monitor, anticipate and respond to shifts in the levels of trust the community has in Australia’s rural industries
  • Identification of common best practice approaches, strategies and interventions for building, rebuilding and maintaining community trust.

What will this mean for my industry?

  • As the challenge of community trust grows, you will have reassurance that you are equipped with the latest data and insights to inform strategic planning and decision making.
  • There will be consistent messaging on the challenge of community trust across the sector, which means we are working collaboratively to achieve progress. One industry’s response to trust impacts another – the Program will deliver a consistent approach and baseline of information, which is key to achieving step-change in the way the community perceives rural industries.
  • You will be able to track key areas of focus and shifts in community sentiment over a three year period, and facilitate a deeper dive into issues of particular concern to your sector.

Timeframe for delivery

Year one of the three-year period will see the creation of a benchmark of community trust and Best Management Practice (BMP) interventions, and the first research insights are due to be released in late 2019.

In years two and three to Program will explore new questions and dive deeply into relevant issues. An analysis of whether trust has shifted as a result of industry action will also be undertaken.


Virginia Johnstone
Project Manager, Seftons
02 6766 5222


* The Program is a jointly funded initiative of AgriFutures Australia, Australian Eggs, Australian Pork Limited, Cotton Research and Development Corporation, Dairy Australia, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Sugar Research Australia, Grains Research and Development Corporation, LiveCorp, Meat and Livestock Australia and the NSW Department of Primary Industries. National Farmers’ Federation is also a project partner and AgriFutures Australia is the managing agent.

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