Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ag Media Summit attracts journalists to Kentucky

This year’s Agricultural Media Summit takes place in Kentucky this year: about 500 agricultural media and public relations professionals will gather this weekend in Louisville.

Some of the people who will attend the tour are coming from a long distance, from Canada and Europe. Perhaps the most unique group taking part will be 14 media professionals from the Republic of Mali in western Africa. They have been hosted by the Oklahoma State University during July to learn about the freedom of the press and to help build their media skills.

On Saturday, a couple busloads of visitors will tour the countryside. Among the stops: a tobacco farm, since Kentucky is the most tobacco-dependent state in the U.S. in the area of the percentage of agricultural income tied to the crop. It used 1 percent of the farmland, but is more than 50 percent of the crop receipts for Kentucky’s farmers.

Kentucky harvests 106,000 acres of tobacco each year, with the crop worth as much as $4,000 per acre.

Last year, according to the University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension Service, the farm cash receipts for Kentucky farmers totaled $4.1 billion, the second highest on record, and tobacco cash receipts were worth $320 million.

However, tobacco farmers are facing problems that sound similar to other parts of the country: diseases, weather problems including serious drought, and labor shortages. One of the differences it faces compared to other crops is the pressure from the public to get out of producing tobacco because of health concerns on cigarettes contributing to cancer. About 100 counties still remain in tobacco production, however, according to the university who provides valuable production information to producers.

Some of the other places that will be visited during the Ag Media Summit tour are the international headquarters of Alltech, a private animal health company; the Kentucky Horse Park, home to almost 50 different horse breeds; and the Woodford Reserve Distillery, which, according to the tour’s information packet, “is the only distillery that crafts its bourbon in copper pot stills and ages it in unique limestone warehouses.” The oldest section of the distillery dates back to 1838.

It makes sense that any visit to Kentucky would include seeing horses. According to the University of Kentucky “equine continued to be the largest reported commodity with cash receipts exceeding $1 billion for the second consecutive year.”

Denita Wallace, our national sales representative, and I will be attending the Ag Media Summit this year. I hope to blog from the event, share some of the training tips being given to ag journalists, give details of some of the agricultural places we see, and report on any news that comes from the summit.

Stay tuned.

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