Twofold challenge for Ag journalists

By Markus Rediger
IFAJ President
Switzerland

In Switzerland only 6.8 percent of household expenditure is spent on food (2011), the lowest percentage in the history of my country. In 1990, the average household paid just 11 percent for food. Which means the Swiss, and with them many consumers in European and other countries, pay less and less for their daily bread.

In Switzerland the total share of a food product's value that goes to farmers' pockets is around 30 percent, according to the economic account of the farmers' association. The more a product is processed, the less money the producer or farmer receives.

For fresh veal, about half of the cost goes back to the farmers. From one liter of milk the farmer receives 45 percent and for cheese, just 33 percent.

Behind these statistics are many stories to investigate and write about for a wide variety of audiences, both farmers and consumers.

Although the supermarket shelves here are overloaded with plenty of food and food is getting cheaper, studies show that consumers are more and more dissatisfied with their food today. They believe that this will not get better in the future. Scandals like the horse meat fraud in Europe support this. Yet, consumers need to eat and drink every day. Lucky the consumer who can trust the food on his plate.

It's my opinion that the more calories consumers have on their plate and the cheaper it costs, the less they seem to trust their food. There is need for unbiased information, a need for solid journalism to inform and establish trust – a twofold challenge in the food sector.

In many places on the globe there is a shortage of trained and professional journalists, including agricultural journalists. The challenge for an Ag journalist is that he is a good writer or communicator (depending on the media) and that he has solid specialist knowledge of agriculture, faming and the food sector. This is a twofold basic challenge in our profession. Our guilds in the member countries and IFAJ offer support for both areas. We invite journalists on tours to all sectors of the food chain in many countries and our professional development helps build skills in writing, photography, as well as leadership.

One of our next opportunities will be the next international IFAJ Congress in Argentina in September 2013. Don’t miss it! The members of CAPA (Circulo Argentino de Periodistas Agrarios) are working to meet the needs of their colleagues. It is their first international IFAJ Congress in their 57 years of existence, and it is our first visit as IFAJ to South America.

In IFAJ we are working to implement our new strategy of becoming more international in scope. Meanwhile, a group of colleagues is working on improvements to the constitution. Lastly, we offer two part-time positions this summer. One replaces the existing Executive Secretary, as Connie Siemes retires in September. The other is a new position as global coordinator. Please check the IFAJ website and inform your colleagues! I am looking forward to hearing from you or meeting you in the near future.