I spent last Saturday attending both the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation's and the Minnesota Farmers Union's annual meetings in Bloomington and Minneapolis, respectively.
Attendance at both meetings was strong. Delegates at both farm organizations re-elected their current leadership. MFBF delegates re-elected Kevin Paap to his fifth term as president. MFU delegates gave approval for Doug Peterson's seventh term as president and re-elected Gary Wertish as vice-president.
Both meetings had excellent speakers and discussion. Both meetings concluded with delegates agreeing on public and farm-related policy. Gov. Mark Dayton attended and spoke at both meetings. Minnesota lawmakers mingled throughout both meetings, too.
From a journalist's perspective, there were easily a couple dozen stories just ripe for the picking over the course of the weekend. Updates on agricultural policy issues at national and states levels; ag's impact on Minnesota water quality; discussions on state transportation, state revenues and MNsure—all these topics were of interest to farmers. And they would be, too, to a non-farming audience.
Yet, when I opened by Star Tribune Sunday newspaper, what ag-related stories do I see?
Feature stories "Wisconsin buys into organics" and "Ethanol at a crossroads." And an editorial commentary "Agriculture's deal with the dark side."
The people and the policies that literally and figuratively provide the fuel for Minnesota's most reliable economic engine were ignored again by the metro media.
There was no coverage of topics or newsmakers originating from annual meetings of the two largest farm organizations in the state.
Instead, newspaper readers get stories on our neighboring state's organic dairy farming industry and another anti-biotech commentary.
We keep talking about the disconnect between food production and consumers these days.
We also have a major disconnect with metro-area journalists and Minnesota farmers.
That was evident during a Farmfest media panel last August. I wrote about that in a previous blog (see North Star Notes August 14, 2013). Journalists on the panel asked farmers to connect with them (rather than it be the other way around). And one media panelist later admitted she wasn't the right one to talk to about news stories. She was an editorial writer, not a reporter, so she was not interested in developing any farmer sources or stories.
The Farmfest media panel concluded that farming is a niche business and that their readers and viewers would only be interested in stories on food safety, food security, the environment and energy.
All of those topics were discussed in some manner at the farm organization annual meetings.
Too bad metro area media outlets didn't find them newsworthy.
And ours, too.