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Editor's Note: Mike Adams joined the team of AgriTalk in July 2001 as the show's new host. Before joining AgriTalk, Adams was farm director of WLDS Radio in Jacksonville, Ill.

I have found the transition from being a local farm broadcaster to a national talk show host to be very interesting, to say the least. As it turns out, my 25 years as a farm broadcaster at a central Illinois radio station actually helped prepare me for my current position.

I was fortunate to spend those years at a station that allowed me to travel and cover agriculture locally, nationally, and even internationally, while also providing me with the long-format airtime that has made my transition to an hour-long talk show much easier. Perhaps the biggest change has been the diversity of agriculture we cover on the show.

My experience has been primarily with corn, soybeans, cattle and hogs, and now I'm learning about issues concerning dairy, cotton and sunflowers. It is also interesting to talk every day with listeners from New York to Oregon and hear their concerns. Many times, I've found that I'm hearing a new perspective on old problems. Concerns about depressed farm prices, bigger and fewer farms, burdensome government regulations, and growing dependence on government farm payments are common across rural America. I've been able to get a closer look at how devastating enforcement of the Endangered Species Act has been to several parts of the country, and how strongly many of our listeners feel about the need for country-of-origin labeling on meat products.

There also seems to be more interest in the farm bill debate than I can ever remember seeing, from both producers and non-producers. And there always seems to be suspicion and criticism of things that are big, such as big farms, big payments and big business. Comments from people off the farm are very revealing, while calls offering support and appreciation for farmers are refreshing. Listeners who question the importance of agriculture assistance reinforce the need for more agriculture education for consumers.

While hosting a talk show is certainly different from being on the regular farm beat, we've tried to bring the best of both worlds to AgriTalk. The goal is to provide a forum for discussion and debate on issues facing rural America. We try to stay current with breaking stories, as well as spend time on stories that develop more slowly. The challenge is to find topics that will appeal to listeners, regardless of what part of the country they live in. Often times, we'll take a local or regional story and try to explain its national implications. Listeners in other parts of the country are interested in knowing what is happening hundreds of miles away.

Along with Ken Rahjes, our producer, I try to stimulate ideas and encourage opinions on a wide variety of topics. Callers have strong opinions for and against the embargo on Cuba, use of biotech products, the effectiveness of commodity checkoffs and even the role and effectiveness of agriculture organizations. As has often been stated, the diversity of agriculture is both its strength and its weakness. Diversity of opinions, however, is the strength of our show.

Our approach on AgriTalk is to try and find positive ways to deal with negative situations. We realize these issues impact our listeners' way of life and can be very emotional. Although my opinions may differ from those of some of our listeners, I try to deal with the issues and our listeners with respect. In an effort to be the voice for rural America, we try to get as many callers on the air as possible and let them voice their opinions and ask their questions. We also stay in touch with farm broadcasters and ag writers who are covering stories around the country, to get their input as well. Along with our listeners, they are our eyes and ears around the country.

No doubt the farm economy, trade, the threat of agro-terrorism and the erosion of rural communities will continue to be topics of concern and discussion in the coming year. While no one has all the answers, everyone can have an opinion, and we want to hear it on AgriTalk! AM

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