Peace, Love And Understanding At IFAJ

Chuck Zimmerman

IFAJ-54One of the best things about an IFAJ Congress is meeting agricultural journalists from other countries. There were representatives from at least 30 countries here!

I interviewed Ershad Mozumder, The Daily Fashal, Bangladesh, who has been reporting on agriculture longer than I have. He has a very interesting perspective on life that I think we can all learn from.

You can listen to my interview with Ershad here: Download MP3 File

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Swiss Cheese Overload At IFAJ

Chuck Zimmerman

IFAJ-52We thought we’d had a cheese fest earlier at the IFAJ Congress but little did we know what was in store when we visited this farm for lunch on the final day. I didn’t count but I think we had at least 40 different kinds of cheese to choose from!

This is the place we had to walk uphill to get to. I don’t mean just walking up a slight incline either.

IFAJ-53We really couldn’t have been in a more picturesque setting for lunch either. The view was spectacular.

Besides the excellent cheese we also had some very good Swiss red and white wine. The bottle supply just kept coming. It was time for a nap on the bus on the way home!

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Senate Ag Committee High Tech Press Conference

Chuck Zimmerman

Saxby ChamblissThis morning Senate Ag Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss, with the help of his very capable communications director, Keith Williams, held a technologically advanced press conference with farm reporters. Using a chat room for reporters to sign on and ask questions and a live internet audio feed, Senator Chambliss addressed a number of questions related to congressional activities in light of the hurricane disaster. Some of the points he made were that basically, this changes everything as far as congressional activities are concerned. Deadlines for appropriations bills will likely be changed, consideration of the death tax repeal will be put off, and agricultural disaster aid will be part of subsequent disaster supplementals once total costs are determined. Besides the producers in the affected states, energy and fertilizer costs are increasing and transportation has been disrupted for producers everywhere, and he noted that agriculture is unable to pass along increased input costs. However, Chambliss did say that he expects WTO and other trade negotiations to move ahead despite the disaster.

You can listen to a portion of the press conference here: Download MP3 File (12MB MP3 File)

Among the reporters who were on-line asking questions were Pam Jahnke of WI Farm Voice; Peter Shinn of NAFB; Stuart Doane of Clear Channel in Little Rock, AR; AgriTalk; Josh St. Peters of Brownfield Network and Cindy on behalf of Southeast AgNet. There were apparently some technical difficulties to start, but it was a very cool use of new communications technology.
Great job, Keith.

Audio, Government

Staying Fit In Switzerland

Chuck Zimmerman

IFAJ-49One thing you notice wandering around Switzerland is that they don’t seem to have an “obesity problem.” I don’t even think they have a food pyramid or national governmental campaign to try to convince you that you should eat a balanced diet!

I think it’s because there’s no where near as much fast food available and because people here bike and hike! At least on the IFAJ Congress there was a whole lot of that going on. For example, one group on the Friday excursions did part of theirs on bikes.

IFAJ-50Then there was the not-to-be-forgotton walk to lunch on Saturday. It was basically straight up a hill to the farm where we ate. Some did get to ride in a car but the rest walked. It really wasn’t far but it required a few stops on the way.

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Fighting Cows of Switzerland

Chuck Zimmerman

IFAJ-48One day of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists Congress was devoted to choosing a day long (7am to 11pm!) excursion to Swiss farm operations. You could choose between various areas that included mountains and valleys. More than one included Swiss dairy and cheese production.

Cindy and I stayed at the hotel to “work” since we had talking news release projects and of course articles that you’ve already seen on AgWired. But thanks to the staff and other participants we have photos.

One of the most amazing stops on one of the excursions was to the Fighting Cows. I wish I could have been there to see that. Almost as good though is the video that Mari Bjørke, director of marketing, PR and communication for GENO in Norway, took using her mobile phone. The cows are wearing bells of course so when you hear the audio you can imagine what it must sound like to be right there. Thanks to Greg Lamp, Corn & Soybean Digest, for the story.

You can see the short 9 second video here in two formats: Fighting Cows (.3gp – 91K) and Fighting Cows (.avi – 6MB)

Holy Cow, Fights
Who’d have guessed in the peaceful, serene mountaintop in the canton of Valais, Switzerland, you’d find fighting cows. Really, cows that attack each other just to be the herd queen. That’s exactly what IFAJ members saw last week during a farm tour to the grape and fruit area of Switzerland – also home to the fierce fighting breed of cattle called Eringers.

Actually, the cows are rather docile until they’re herded into a ring to perform for cheering crowds, says cattleman Jacques Pralong. He owns about 100 of the dual purpose (milk and meat) black cows and regularly enters them in fighting cow shows across the southern part of the country. “They’re an aggressive breed and naturally like to fight,” he says.

Generally, about 40 cows are entered into an official fight. Much like a championship sporting event, there are playoffs where cows are penned into groups of 10. The top four from each group are then pitted against each other until six have fought their way to the top spots and become winners. Local residents and die-hard fans pay 13 franks ($10) to watch the match, 15 franks ($12) for the final championship fight. As many as 3,000-4,000 spectators show up for one of the events, usually held in the spring and fall. It’s even broadcast on television. “I make more money with the fighting than I ever would with the meat or milk,” Pralong says.

In a normal herd setting the cows quickly determine their pecking order and select their own queen. From then on, no more fights. “In fact, with humans they’re very much like pets,” Pralong explains. “It’s like having a dog. It can be somewhat mean, but not with his owner.” So what do the animal activists think? Pralong says they don’t care since the breed is naturally aggressive. “They worry more about us letting them walk on frozen ground where they could slip and hurt themselves,” he adds.

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Great Weather For Farm Progress Show

Chuck Zimmerman

Farm Progress Show 2005 Tillage DemoIf I hadn’t been attending the IFAJ Congress last week I would have been at the 2005 Farm Progress Show. Thanks to Willie Vogt, Corporate Editorial Director, Farm Progress and Jacqui Fatka, E-content editor, I have this show followup report and pictures.

Field Demos Prove Popular Spot at FPS
Crowds got a good look at harvesting and tillage equipment at the Farm Progress Show site with the corn – which is at 17% – moving through the newest and biggest machines. The tillage demonstrations, which included dozens of machines, gave producers a look at the latest technology. For a full listing of new products launched at the show, visit www.FarmProgressShow.com under the What’s New “Exhibitor News” section.

Johanns Makes FPS Farm Bill Forum Tour Stop
Sept. 1 at the Farm Progress Show Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns hosted another round of Farm Bill Forums, a series of sessions where interested groups can talk about what should be included in the 2007 Farm Bill.

Over 200 people attended the session that covered everything from renewable energy to rural development and offered up a smorgasbord of ideas for the former Nebraska governor. This was not a dialog, but a listening session with Johanns dutifully taking notes. His aim: “We want to be proactive with the farm bill.”

Soybean Board Continues to Push Quality
Yield is king and that will never change,” says United Soybean Board Chairman Greg Anderson. But instead of just asking dealers about varieties that offer yield and agronomic solutions, one in three farmers in the Upper Midwest are asking their seed dealers which of those varieties will yield the highest protein and oil combination, Anderson reported at this year’s Farm Progress Show. The Select Yield & Quality Initiative started three years ago is helping raise the bar to meet the 19% oil and 35% protein levels desired by China and other Asian markets.

America’s Heartland Debuts at FPS
In an air-conditioned theatre, visitors to the 2005 Farm Progress Show saw the debut of America’s Heartland, a new weekly public television show that celebrates American agriculture. The magazine-style, half-hour program features five different vignettes from around the country highlighting the land, bedrock of American values of family and what life on the farm means to those that live there. The series will premier the first week of September 2005. The first season of the program will consist of 20 original programs, one or more of which will break from the established format to cover a single topic or theme.

Undersecretary of Rural Development Dorr Visits FPS
Undersecretary of Rural Development Tom Dorr shared his vision for rural America with visitors at the 2005 Farm Progress Show. Since starting his work at USDA’s Rural Development department he sees two significant opportunities for rural America: renewable energy and place. The Farm Progress Show is a perfect example of how place was able to add value to rural Decatur, Ill., he explains. The Farm Progress Show landed in Decatur because of the community teamwork to draw the 3-day show to the area as a semi-permanent site over the next 20 years. Growers have played an integral role in getting renewable fuels to the level they are today, and that will continue to provide opportunities in the future, Dorr adds.

Farm Progress Show

On Our Way Back To The U-S of A

Chuck Zimmerman

No picture for this post. I’ve just got a few minutes of access time here in Zurich. It’s travel day home. Cindy and I had to hide out for 2 days and relax. We did some high mountain hiking and ate some great fondue in Lucerne.

I have a lot more to post from the IFAJ Congress and will begin working on it tomorrow. I’ll also have a little summary of last week’s Farm Progress show with some photos as well.

So, lots more to come. I’ll be back in full production Thursday.

General

What Do Swiss Non-Ag Journalists Think

Chuck Zimmerman

ZimmCast 32 - Claudia WirzFor this week’s ZimmCast I interviewed Claudia Wirz, Neue Zuericher Zeitung, a journalist who covers ag stories for her publication. Claudia spoke at the IFAJ Congress yesterday about “The Media and Agriculture.” She was on the program right after Marcus Rediger and makes a comment in the interview about the consumer campaign that his organization conducts. Claudia was able to offer the group a very different perspective and one I think we needed to hear.

IFAJ-45I thought it was interesting to hear Claudia’s perspective and as you can hear her say in the interview she has some strong feelings when it comes to animals. She said in her presentation that she doesn’t see why farmers don’t support legislation here in Switzerland to further restrict pet owners and that she thinks that’s a mistake on their part. I guess that’s because she thinks that animal rights activists will be unhappy with farmers then. However, I don’t think she really understands that farmers don’t want increased animal rights legislation since it will ultimately have an impact on how they can conduct their business.

You can listen to this week’s ZimmCast with Claudia Wirz here: Download MP3 File (4.8MB MP3 File)

The ZimmCast is the weekly podcast of AgWired which you can subscribe to using the link in our sidebar.

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Cindy’s Comments From Switzerland

Chuck Zimmerman

IFAJ-46I’ve been trying to get Cindy to start writing on AgWired but she has found other ways to help out with content. However, on this IFAJ Congress trip she decided to at least write one article for me to post for her. In the picture you can see her in the little village where we had lunch yesterday. I’ll have more on that.

This is Cindy speaking now instead of Chuck for a change, just providing some of my observations of our visit here in Switzerland.

First of all, it has been a bit surreal being here with all the disaster going on back in the states. Even though we are so far away, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone there. It has been interesting, agonizing and distressing – to watch the coverage on CNN International. I am sure there is just as much “blame game” going on in the US but it seems especially biased here in Europe. People here seem to be intent upon blaming the United States administration for this disaster. It is also interesting that the city where we are staying in Switzerland was flooded just a week or so ago. There is absolutely no sign of it now.

This congress has been just fascinating. It has been so interesting to talk with ag journalists from other countries and to see how well everyone relates to each other. I met ag journalists from all over the world – Ireland, Australia, Albania, Bangledesh, Nepal, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, Spain, Norway….etc. I was just awe-struck last night watching this group all dancing together and singing songs like “Sweet Caroline” and “Twist and Shout”. It was so cool.

All I could think of during this trip was – why are there no NAFB members here? This is a fantastic organization, which includes broadcasters as well as print people, and we all face the same challenges and concerns. The group reminds me of NAFB – they are very close knit and many have been involved in this organization for 50 years. Note to US farm broadcasters….plan to attend this meeting if you can next year. It will be in Norway next year, Japan in ’07, Austria in ’08, and the US in ’09.

It looks like the U-S meeting will be in Texas. I can assure you that it will be worth your time.

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Communicating Ag To The Swiss Public

Chuck Zimmerman

IFAJ-44Next up on today’s program was one of the organizer’s of the IFAJ Congress, Marcus Rediger. Marcus had lots of interesting information. He spoke on “The Communication of the Farmers With Society.” One of the very cool things his organization (Agricultural Information Center) does is an annual National Brunch Day where a consumer can go out to a farm and have brunch. It’s a national holiday now. Now that’s promoting understanding between farmers and consumers.

His group has also coordinated an ongoing campaign (5 million Swiss Francs) to educate the general public about agriculture. He said it was titled “Thank God for the Swiss farmer.” I like that slogan. He does see the bond between the farmer and the public weakening though and efforts like this are becoming more important.

He said that 97% of the public prefer Swiss products. 67% think it’s important to know where their food is coming from. Most think it’s too expensive. He said that 8% of the federal budget goes to subsidizing farmers. He said that farmers only make up about 3 to 4 percent of the population. Sounds like the United States. 3/4 of the Swiss population live in urban areas.

This information campaign his organization is involved in has done surveys to see if it’s made any impact on the general public. 80% say they like the slogan/campaign. You can view elements of the campaign here.

There’s lots more to come AgWired fans. It’s time now to go to the closing ceremony. I’ll have lots more tomorrow.

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