By Gary Cooper
AgNet Media Founder and President
I recently connected with Max Armstrong, host of the nationally syndicated “This Week in Agribusiness” television program, for a fast-paced rural area and farm tour in Central Florida. It turned out to be a great opportunity for all involved, especially for Florida, which deserves more and better national media attention as an important agricultural state.
The tour provided news for AgNet Media’s broadcasts and websites. Our broadcasts and other agricultural programs air on radio and television stations in hundreds of farm and rural communities and nearby urban areas, nationwide. Collectively, these programs reach millions of listeners both on the farm and in urban environments. Agricultural producers continue to rely on farm broadcasters for important and timely ag news that is seldom understood or covered by reporters in mainstream media. This is particularly true in radio and television.
Together, the nation’s remaining farm broadcasters continue to have national impact in more ways than many farm leaders and input suppliers realize. However, farm news in the broadcast media will likely be far more important in the future than it has been in the past. Considering their normally deeper knowledge of facts of critical shared issues between farmers and consumers — issues such as genetic science to produce more and better foods, environmental protection, future water supplies and the ability to feed a growing world — the ongoing positive impact farm broadcasters have had and can continue to have for agriculture is indisputable. But farm broadcast news just doesn’t “happen.”
Consider the value of broadcast airtime itself. If all of the airtime that farm broadcasters create with their news reports had to be purchased, it would cost the ag industry millions and millions of dollars to sustain annually, just in a couple of states alone! There are about 150 or less professional career farm broadcasters remaining in the United States. They continue to dedicate their efforts to produce timely news needed by agricultural producers and strive to maintain the bartered airtime to keep it on the air. Farm broadcasters must constantly sell for their supper to keep these broadcasts available. Independent farm media and farm broadcasters are self-sustained only by the sale of advertising and program sponsorships. It seems some farm organizations and suppliers take these services too much for granted.
As members of the board of directors of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) — Armstrong is president and I represent NAFB’s southern region — the couple of days touring part of my home state of Florida gave us both an opportunity to share views on the status of the ag media industry. Many companies and others in the industry at various levels seem to be losing sight of the full value this special niche industry of farm broadcasting brings to the agricultural media table. This is especially true when it comes to the “telling the farm story” effort many leaders in agriculture say is so important. The frequency and repetitious nature of farm broadcasting, along with the ongoing consistency also unique to its media niche, continues to be at the core of farm broadcast effectiveness, both as a targeted news service and as an effective advertising and marketing tool.
Mergers of large national companies continue, and the remaining product advertisers are looking for ways to achieve more with less. We hope our farm audience will help us inform these organizations about their important role in keeping farm news on the air and online, while they also strive to find ways to reach you, the producer.
After all, independent farm broadcasters can often dig deeper and ask questions of newsmakers that policy-driven organizations and their representatives may find it hard to ask. But still, independent farm media, like farmers themselves, have to operate as a business with a profit to remain sustainable. And it isn’t getting any easier. In independent farm media, there are no membership dues, no substantial subscription incomes, no government grants and no emergency funds when advertising budgets get cut or when a freeze hits and advertisers cancel their orders.
AgNet Media was founded more than 30 years ago because growers wanted a farm broadcasting industry in Florida that the state never had before. We’re still kicking, growing, interviewing newsmakers and keeping farm news on the air for all to hear — farmers, ranchers and consumers alike in a state that now ranks third in U.S. population. If you’re a farmer anywhere, we hope you’ll tell your key suppliers about farm broadcasting, and remind them of their importance in helping to keep good, timely and accurate news about agriculture flowing into the next generation and beyond.
We would like to hear from you. Please send your feedback and thoughts to me anytime at Gary@AgNetMedia.com.
Read the other articles in the AgNet Hosts “This Week in Agribusiness” series:
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