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31 January 2010 - Ag Communication Must Improve

I have lost count of the number of times over the years that I've heard people at farm meetings say "We must do a better job of telling the story of agriculture to consumers". As a matter of fact, I have lost count of the number of times I have said that on Samuelson Sez. But I say it again and I say it this time from a little different approach.

First of all, the need for communicators who understand agriculture is more vital than ever. The number of attacks on animal agriculture and on the way we produce food continues to increase every year. We need knowledgeable people with agricultural backgrounds, to work not only in agricultural media, but perhaps more importantly, in urban non-agricultural media. We also need anybody and everybody involved in food production today to tell the science-based story at coffee shops, supermarket checkout lanes, P.T.A. meetings and Sunday morning church coffee hours...and that means each of you!

But let's focus for a moment on the professional communicators. Where do we find the new crop of agricultural broadcasters, writers and speakers to counter the attacks on agriculture? At the recent trade show in Orlando, Florida, Ag Connect Expo, there were thirty information sessions dealing with various topics. I was involved in one of them, a three-person panel looking at agricultural communications in the future. Joining me on the panel were Mike Yost, a South Dakota farmer, who has traveled the world as President of the American Soybean Association and then as head of the Foreign Agricultural Service of U.S.D.A and Dr. Jim Evans, retired Agricultural Communications Professor at the University of Illinois.

It was special having Jim on the panel because he has touched the lives of so many of us in agricultural communications during his more than three decades of teaching. Because of his dedication to the profession, many of his friends across the nation and the University of Illinois are conducting a drive to raise the money to establish an Endowed Chair for Agricultural Communications in the name of Jim Evans. Currently there is no Endowed Chair for Agricultural Communications at any University in the country.

We need to strengthen the educational process for agricultural communications to find and recruit students who have the talent and desire to do the work that needs to be done and then to provide them with the quality education that will help them tell the true story of agriculture. It is our hope that establishing an Endowed Chair at one University will lead other land-grant colleges to do the same to lift the importance of the program and prepare the next crop of agricultural communicators. It is critically important to all of us in the industry and we need your help and support.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.