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Source: blog by Scott Irwin, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois

To view the complete report, click here.

Exactly 10 years ago today the farmdoc team launched a revolutionary new enterprise. With the smart phone and blogging revolutions in full swing, we made the decision to launch an entirely new website called farmdoc daily. In recognition of the need to stay relevant in a 24/7 news and information environment, we came up with the audacious goal of publishing one article of original analysis on "Corn Belt farm economics" each and every business day. Here we are, 2,383 articles later.

Yes, you read that right. We have published an average of 238 articles per year for the last decade. We are, of course, proud of this accomplishment, but we are even prouder that we met the goal while maintaining high standards for timeliness, relevance, and rigor. We know that the quality of articles, not the quantity, is the reason why farmdoc daily has earned a place on the "must read" list of literally hundreds of thousands of farmers, lenders, educators, journalists, traders, market analysts, and policy-makers around the world. In the remainder of this article, we will discuss how the farmdoc daily enterprise is organized and review some data on its impact.

How Do We Do It?
We have been asked many times how in the world we have been able to keep up such an extraordinary pace of publication. It certainly has not been easy! We think there are five factors that play a key role:

#1. Team. There is no farmdoc daily without the team of extraordinarily talented individuals that is at the heart of the enterprise. Team members develop the decision tools, create new datasets, and write the articles. Without this "knowledge power" there is no lasting demand for the articles. It is also very important that team members like to write. A lot. In addition, we have been extremely fortunate to have a great staff that does the hard work of putting up the articles every day and managing the farmdoc daily website.

#2. Shared Vision. The farmdoc project has always had a well-defined vision from the very beginning. Our vision is to provide analysis, tools, and data to help commercial farmers in the Corn Belt make better decisions in their operations. The farmdoc daily site reflects the willingness of the farmdoc team to take risks to achieve that vision.

#3. Engagement. Subject-matter specialists on the farmdoc team have to be engaged on a daily basis with the commercial agriculture sector in order to stay relevant and timely. This occurs in myriad ways, including phone calls, emails, media inquiries, social media, and face-to-face meetings and conversations (at least until the last year!). In addition, team members are regularly consulted by government officials regarding a wide variety of policies in agricultural trade, price supports, and biofuels.

#4. Low Overhead. A key priority is to minimize overhead time costs to the subject-matter specialists that write farmdoc daily articles. This helps maximize flexibility and speed of response to changing issues and problems in Corn Belt agriculture. Consistent with this priority, we do not have a formal editorial review system for farmdoc daily articles. Individual team members are 100 percent responsible for quality control. We maintain a group calendar app and team members sign up for slots and then write the articles. This management philosophy is crucial to making farmdoc daily an appealing outlet to busy faculty and staff, particularly those that do not have Extension appointments.

#5. Funding. An effort on the scale of farmdoc daily requires significant financial resources. The annual budget for the entire farmdoc project is now about $250,000 per year (not accounting for faculty time), and the funding base consists of sponsorships, gift funds, grants, and Extension funds. In particular, we are very fortunate to have the annual support of a Corporate Sponsor, the TIAA Center for Farmland Research, and our Platinum Sponsors: Compeer Financial, Farm Credit Illinois, FS Growmark, Illinois Corn, and Illinois Soybean Association. (Information about the farmdoc sponsorship program and the complete list of sponsors can be found at this link.)

What is the Impact?
There are lots of ways to measure impact and we are actually working to develop new methods that will provide a more rigorous answer to the question of the economic value of farmdoc programs. Here, we are going to stick to some basic indicators drawn from web traffic statistics for the farmdoc daily site.

Figure 1 presents the history of annual page requests to farmdoc daily over 2011 through 2020. The level of page requests started out back in 2011 at a little over 600,000 and grew to a peak of just under 64 million in 2019. The tremendous surge in requests for 2019 was driven by the exceptionally wet spring and all of the issues surrounding late planting. The number of page requests returned to normal trendline growth in 2020 and totaled around 22,000,000. For the entire last decade, there was a total of 150 million page requests to farmdoc daily

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