By Miranda Burski, Communications Branch
A key part of building trust in any relationship is the willingness to admit where you can make improvements. The agriculture industry’s efforts to build trust with the public are no exception—a rule Erika Bachmann sees every day in her work as a Policy Analyst with the Ministry of Agriculture’s Environment and Resource Policy Unit.
Erika’s work primarily focuses on issues that affect both agriculture and the environment. Her unit looks at how producers are affected by the environment and vice versa, while her own major files are biodiversity and sustainability. That includes everything from species at risk and habitat requirements for species, to sustainable sourcing and Environmental Farm Plans.
Her work, she said, includes areas where the agriculture sector hasn’t always done what may be considered by some as the “right things,” so it was encouraging to see that the Ministry’s new Public Trust Strategy addressed that perspective in its three pillars: doing the right thing, effective assurance, and awareness and engagement. “It was really exciting to see the comprehensiveness of the new strategy, that it’s not just about communication, but it’s also about looking at where the agricultural sector can improve and where we need to move the needle.”
Including this perspective goes over particularly well when Erika and her unit work with outside Ministries and organizations. They often work with the Ministry of Environment and the Water Security Agency, for example, on topics related to species at risk and biodiversity. Together, they look at current practices and put forward options that help us better meet broader objectives for the sector. While the initial reception to the Ministry’s public trust efforts were mixed, they’re now being met more positively.
“Some were unsure if we were willing to actually look at whether there were real issues and then actually identify and address those issues,” Erika said. “Colleagues and other Ministries have reacted quite positively to those two additional pillars around doing the right thing and effective assurance … acknowledging this as a valuable part of public trust, has had a positive outcome.
“The new strategy, with the three pillars, is much more comprehensive. Our willingness to acknowledge that there are times when we can do better and that we’re going to be open and transparent and willing to address issues on the landscape is really exciting. I think that’s what will resonate with external stakeholders.”
Erika, meanwhile, is looking forward to not only continuing the public trust conversation both within the Ministry and outside of it, but also continuing the work she does as part of it, particularly related to sustainability. The sustainable sourcing file is still in its early stages, and she’s looking forward to seeing where industry takes this work and how tools such as Saskatchewan’s Environmental Farm Plans can help producers adapt.
“It’s exciting to have the Environmental Farm Plans be part of this process and see where it fits,” she said. “How do we work alongside industry as sustainable sourcing requirements evolve?”