What toilet paper fights can teach agriculture

What toilet paper fights can teach agriculture

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TRUER WORDS: Col Sam Barringer speaking at a lot feeders' conference in Australia last year. His ideas on national security and food security being one and the same are resonating in today's world of pandemic panic.

TRUER WORDS: Col Sam Barringer speaking at a lot feeders' conference in Australia last year. His ideas on national security and food security being one and the same are resonating in today's world of pandemic panic.

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US military man's fascinating human behaviour insights.

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WHEN there is a breakdown in food security, countries spiral into chaos and national security quickly follows.

This is a message one of the United State's prominent military men, Colonel Sam Barringer, has been sharing for some time but never has his message been so pertinent than in a year when consumers in both the US and Australia have experienced empty supermarket shelves for the first time in their lives.

Col Barringer is a veterinarian by trade who spent 30 years in the US Air Force and US Army, during which time he was deployed to 25 different countries and earnt numerous medals and awards for exemplary performance in combat.

He believes agriculture is central to national security.

The Colonel speaks internationally about human behavioural science and his ideas about how the Australian livestock industry could best deal with anti-meat sentiment resonated when he headlined a conference run by the Australian Lot Feeders' Association last year.

ALFA this week invited him to share, via webinar, his views on the food security lessons flowing from pandemic panic.

Col Barringer says quite simply a breakdown in food security will rapidly lead to a nation ceasing to exist.

How irrational is it to fight over toilet paper, he asked. And yet we saw that in both Australia and the US.

"Magnify that and relate it to hunger and see how deeply irrational people act," he said.

"I have seen that as someone who has been deployed around the world. It is insane what people will do when they're fearful of going hungry.

"Chaos becomes imminent. A lot of people who heard me in October (when he spoke at Dalby in Queensland) would have been a little skeptical of this. I doubt there are any skeptics today."

The bottom line for those in agriculture was to know just how important what they do is and what would happen to their country if they fell down and the chain of getting goods to shelves broke down.

Australian national security was 100 per cent dependent on primary producers doing a good job to maintain food security, he said.

Backfiring

Col Barringer spoke about the behavioural science concept known as the 'backfire effect'.

Understanding it was key to successfully delivering many of the messages livestock producers need to. It was also important in the job of attempting to move a population to a position of thinking that could restore sanity, which was extremely relevant to current times.

The backfire effect is a quirk humans have, whereby they reject facts and data that contradict where their beliefs are, Col Barringer explained.

"When presented with facts and data, instead of convincing someone to change - it backfires and further entrenches their position," he said.

"Our reasoning brain is less scientific. It's easier to say 'your fact is wrong' than 'my view is wrong'."

How can it be overcome?

Learning how to tell a personal story is the best persuasive device, the Colonel believes.

"As cattlemen, you live a story worth telling," he said.

This where understanding the 'why' of being involved in food security comes in. If one's core motivation is only ever financial, he or she will run out of gas quickly, Col Barringer believes.

There has to be a stronger why.

"Why are you feeding cattle?" he asked his audience last year.

"It comes down to food security.

"Food security means my boys don't have to go to war. It means Australia is safe."

The story What toilet paper fights can teach agriculture first appeared on Farm Online.

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