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It is the dream of many farm broadcasters to travel the globe reporting news important to America's agriculture producers. Thanks to Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. and the National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB), this dream came true for Tom Steever, reporter for Brownfield; Peter Shinn, manager of the National Farm Broadcast Service; and Gene Millard, marketing and promotions manager for NAFB.

Peter Shinn (left) and Gene Millard, both with the National Association of Farm Broadcasters, visit a John Deere dealership in Soriso, Mato Grosso, Brazil, during a broadcasting mission sponsored by Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc.
Dubbed the "Pioneer Global Ag Marketing Reports," the partnership provided Shinn and Millard the opportunity to travel to Brazil in early February 2004 to learn more about North America's largest production competitor. Shinn says it was largely a matter of chance that he was able to go, because most farm broadcasters were engaged in covering the busy winter meeting season when the trip was being planned.

And Shinn says the trip to Brazil proved fortunate in another way, as Brazil's much-discussed soybean harvest was just beginning to gear up. We now know USDA's predictions of a 60 million metric ton soybean crop in Brazil were off by about 10 million metric tons. But while in Brazil, Shinn and Millard were among the first on the ground to see how excessive rains had aggravated soybean rust losses and kept combines out of fields in Mato Grosso, causing soybeans to literally turn black and rot in rain-drenched fields. They were then able to break that story to NAFB members in the States.

"At the time, we were able to identify that Brazil may not have the crop that was predicted," Shinn explains. "It was a matter of being at the right place at the right time."

Tom Steever of Brownfield, Jefferson City, Mo., was selected by NAFB to travel with representatives of the U.S. Grains Council to Southeast Asia. The two-week mission in August included stops in Taiwan, Vietnam and China to develop market opportunities for U.S. grain growers.

Tom Steever (right), reporter for Brownfield, interviews Xiu Hong Liu (left), secretary general of the Guangdong Provincial Swine Association, while Jason Yan (center), technical program director with U.S. Grains Council's Beijing office, interprets during the Council's Grain Export Mission in Southeast Asia.
Vietnam was a major focus of the mission, and Steever says, "With a little development and help from the U.S. Grains Council, that market is really going to take off." The travel to China was also very timely, according to Steever. "China as a viable exporter is fading because the country's demand is outstripping production of grain. China is close to importing grain; therefore, China and its customers are seeking new import suppliers, which is very timely for the U.S."

Both international trips produced 30 reports each - three per day that included a long-form interview three to five minutes in length, a two-and-a-half minute wrap and a 60-second report. The reports were distributed via the National Farm Broadcast Service ( and were available to all NAFB members.

Steever says his fellow broadcasters responded well to the three different report lengths, which easily fit members' various programming needs. For instance, at Brownfield, several 60-second reports were used in newscasts, while programs such as "Managing for Profit" and "Rural Issues" utilized the longer reports.


The partnership has been tremendously successful in generating news and meeting international programming needs for farm broadcasters. But it also was a creative way for NAFB members to generate additional revenue. Shinn says there was a dual goal for the international reports. "The first goal was to produce content useful to all NAFB members. Second, we wanted to produce content that would be saleable by our members. We wanted to create an income opportunity for them," he explains.

This was also a goal for sponsor Pioneer Hi-Bred International. Jerry Harrington, sales and marketing PR manager for Pioneer, says, "Pioneer wanted to provide customers with information about overseas issues that affect agriculture here at home." Harrington also agrees that the reports were great opportunities for broadcasters to put together special programming, which they could sell advertisements around.

In Lexington, Neb., KRVN Radio took full advantage of the sales opportunity created by the partnership. Denny Waddle, sales manager for KRVN, says the local sales representative, Dick O'Hanlon, learned of NAFB's Brazil reports and said, "I bet local dealers in the area would be interested in tagging onto their parent company, Pioneer." O'Hanlon presented a group of five Pioneer dealers in Dawson County the chance to sponsor each of the 60-second reports from Brazil.

After the Pioneer district manager approved the idea, KRVN opened and closed each report with "sponsored by Pioneer Hi-Bred International and the Dawson County area Pioneer dealers." The dealer group also was recognized in a 30-second spot that thanked them for their support of the Brazilian reports.

"We had five happy dealers, and our listeners were able to hear what was happening in Brazil. It was a win-win situation for everyone," Waddle says. "The project worked well for us, and I am glad that we could do it."

It also provided broad exposure for Pioneer. Steever says the Southeast Asia Grain Export Mission was a perfect match for a company such as Pioneer. "This was a great sponsorship fit - a hybrid company that puts reports on the air about developing corn markets overseas," he says. "It's also a good fit for farm broadcasters because ag markets are becoming more and more global and, consequently, our repertoire must become more global."

"It was a terrific experience as a journalist," Shinn says. "I learned so much in Brazil and am grateful that I was able to communicate my experiences back to NAFB members and their audiences."

Both Shinn and Steever recommend that farm broadcasters take advantage of any opportunity to learn more about global markets, travel internationally, and to share that experience with colleagues. AM

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