From following commodity prices to food trends, there are many different aspects of the agriculture beat you’ll need to understand in order to best report on area farming. Here are our five tips for reporting on agriculture and money:
1. Get out into the fields.
The best sources to have, especially in rural areas, are the farmers out in the fields. They’ll know what’s happening in an area and the ins and outs of working a specific region. Head on down to the local cafe or coffee shop where many of them meet in the morning. Introduce yourself, listen and learn from their discussions.
2. Introduce yourself to the local offices and agencies.
If there’s a co-op in town, get to know the workers there and follow commodity prices. Stop by the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service offices. These people have insight into local issues and upcoming projects. Don’t forget to keep an eye on websites like the Farm Bureau of the Department of Agriculture and local environmentalist and conservation groups.
3. Follow the Farm Bill and other agricultural legislation.
The Farm Bill governs a number of food and agricultural programs in the United State. Every time it goes in front of Congress means possible changes that could have a big impact on local farmers and the economy. State legislation is different from state to state, but it can have just as much of an impact. Farmers are a politically active bunch, so it’s important to understand what political outcomes mean to your coverage area.
4. Know the ABCs of agriculture.
Study up on your agricultural lingo. In order to best understand your sources and to report on a topic, you’ll need to know a lot of words that you might not be used to, like “agronomy” (the science of growing crops and managing soil) and “leaching” (the loss of fertilizer when rain washes it from the soil).
5. Understand the weather.
It’s great to cover agriculture when farms produce high yields and times are good, but its important to understand why things go wrong. Often, one of the biggest reasons is the weather. What happens when a season is too wet or too dry? Is planting behind schedule because the winter melt was slow? Farmers keep an eye on the weather, so they’ll tell you when they’re concerned about the forecast.
Want more? Download our “Guide to Business Beat Basics” for tips on covering money in agriculture and other beats.