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Gerald Ford was in the White House. The U.S. had just pulled out of Vietnam. The Soviet Union was actively buying our grain. And in that summer of 1975 a new nationwide television show for farmers was debuting in a studio in Chicago. Over the next 25 years, millions of Americans would get an up-close, personal view of American agriculture through U.S. Farm Report.

A running of 25 years is no small feat among nationally syndicated programs. Produced by Tribune Entertainment, U.S. Farm Report is the second longest-running, nationally syndicated television program. A.C. Nielsen reports that U.S. Farm Report is the number one agribusiness television program in all key farm and ranch demographics.

During the month of July 2000, U.S Farm Report will commemorate its silver anniversary by airing footage from archives spanning 25 years. In conjunction with the 25th anniversary, Tribune Entertainment and Tribune Broadcasting honored show host and producer Orion Samuelson at the National Association of Television Program Executives meeting in January. Orion also received a Silver Circle award from the local Chicago chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. This award was particularly special because Ward Quall, the former CEO of Tribune Broadcasting and the person who first hired Orion, presented it.

Orion created U.S. Farm Report to fill a niche for the rural audience. He built the show for active, working farmers, as well as those in agribusiness who serve them. With hard farm news, rural interest features and coverage of the markets and weather, it is a formula that has worked well.

Over the years, U.S. Farm Report originated broadcasts from every state in the country and from more than 30 nations. In 1978, viewers were given a glimpse of the huge potential of the ag product market in China, long before it became fashionable to travel there.

Today, U.S. Farm Report is carried each weekend on 196 stations. Aired on stations in the major markets, as well as those in small communities in the Heartland, the program is available to nearly every farm family in the U.S. The vast satellite and cable coverage of Chicago’s WGN-TV has helped bring the show to many areas where a loyal following has developed.

Orion and I have truly traveled the world, helping tell the story of agriculture. Samuelson commented, "Talking to consumers has been one of the most important missions of our program. I have always felt strongly about the need to explain the issues of farming to those who do not farm."

We have gone to great lengths to accomplish that goal. Our shows have originated from trains, boats and planes. We have interviewed, along with hundreds of farmers, some of the most powerful politicians. "I have shared my microphone with every U.S. Agriculture Secretary of the last 50 years," Orion says. And recent guests have included the president of the American Farm Bureau, Bob Stallman, and the U.S. Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.

Our coverage has included some of the most complex ag issues of the past 25 years - matters such as embargoes, set-asides, animal rights issues and biotech crop concerns. But our show also presents lighter features such as Tractor Tales, showing favorite old farm tractors, and the very popular Country Church Salute.AM


Max Armstrong is co-host of U.S. Farm Report.

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