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PRESIDENTIAL PERSPECTIVE

Editorís Note: Colleen Callahan will serve as president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) for 2002. Callahan is the farm director at WMBD Radio in Peoria, Ill.



What is the top issue facing you as president of NAFB in 2002?

One of my favorite sayings has always been, "Times change, and we with times, but not in the way of friendships." CHANGE - from corporate consolidations to uncertainty of future farm policy, from fewer farmers to larger farms, from biotechnology to food safety and biosecurity - agriculture continues to adjust to and endure change. Nothing stays the same, does it? And, because it doesn't, we are each challenged to make adjustments.

As farm broadcasters, it is our responsibility to educate and inform; to provide current information on issues to producers and educate consumers on those issues. When I began broadcasting in 1973, the top issues were high food prices and meat boycotts. Congressman Jerry Litton was one of the "newsmakers" at the first NAFB Convention that I attended. Litton shared that as a freshman Congressman, he was greeted to Capitol Hill by protesters who were boycotting meat purchases. They said meat prices were too high, and they wanted price freezes and price rollbacks.

Coming from a purebred Charloais ranch in Missouri, Litton said he looked forward to his first speech on the House floor. He explained to his colleagues that price freezes and rollbacks would not work. He said the market needed to "run its course." Litton explained that getting beef to the grocery store did not happen "over night." He explained that when a heifer is born, it would take her about 15 months to reach maturity. Then she could be bred to have a calf. That, he said, would take nine months. Then, it would take that calf about 18 months to reach market weight and be sent to market. A few weeks after that, the beef from that calf would be in the supermarket. Litton asked his fellow Congressman to let the cycle take care of the issue and vote against the price freeze and rollbacks. Confident that he had successfully made his point, he was stunned when the vote went against his explanation. So, he rose to the floor and asked why. One of his colleagues said, "Well, Jerry, we understand, but our people back home don't...and that's whom we represent." Whew!! Talk about getting the wind knocked out of you!

I knew right then that I wanted to be part of the group who educated the "people back home" about agriculture. In the meantime, times have changed, I have changed, and issues have changed. But the need to communicate to create greater understanding has not.

What will be your biggest challenge personally?

I can best answer this question by sharing part of a letter that I received from Layne R. Beaty. (Layne Beaty was the third president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters in 1947. At the time he was with WBAP Radio, Fort Worth, Texas. He went on to become chief of radio & TV, USDA. He is a Meritorious Service Award recipient and in our Farm Broadcasters Hall of Fame.) "I am the oldest past president still ticking, at 87. I remember predicting many years ago that NAFB would have a lady president eventually. What took you so long? So be it. Best wishes for a great convention and a thumping good year as president."

Thank you for the letter and your wishes, Layne. There was NEVER a plan or goal to become the first woman president of NAFB. It just worked out that way. There could have been others before me. There just weren't. But, being the first could be a challenge in itself.

How can agri-marketers help you do a better job?

The National Association of Farm Broadcasters is an organization of agricultural communicators. Our membership is made up of on-air broadcasters, those in agricultural sales and marketing, agricultural commodity groups, agricultural organization representatives, university information specialists, and students. The successful future of NAFB lies in the cultivation of EACH of these membership groups. It's all about relationships.

I recently read in the book, Good to Great, "We expected that good-to-great leaders would begin by setting a new vision and strategy. We found instead that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats - and then they figured out where to drive it."

It is my hope, and my goal, that the NAFB "bus" will have maximum occupancy of the "right people in the right seats" charting a course for our destination. AM


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