Congress registration deadline - 5th April

The last day to register to attend this year’s IFAJ Congress is 5th April. Visit for more details.

Star prize winners to be announced at Congress

The Star Prize winners of the photography, broadcasting and writing competitions will be announced during the IFAJ congress in Belgium. For a look back at past winners, as sponsored by De Laval and Deere and Company, visit the IFAJ website.

Profile of Serbian Guild

The Agropress Association of Agricultural Journalists in Serbia has agreed to be the first in a series of profiles of member organisations which will go on the IFAJ website. Agropress was set up in 2004, and became a member of IFAJ in 2006. It is a non-governmental organisation whose main goal is to revive and promote rural life in Serbia, and promote the work of journalists covering the agriculture and food industry. Look out for the Q and A profile by Communications Chairman Stephen Cadogan, coming soon.


Issue March 2010

IFAJ Congress in Belgium: final plans

Over 150 participants have registered to attend the 54th Annual IFAJ Congress which takes place in Ostend on the Belgian coast. Jef Verhaeren, president of the Congress, explains: “Before the main congress starts on 17 April there is an optional pre-congress tour to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Wallonia, and afterwards, a post-congress tour takes delegates to Ypres and Brussels.”

The pre-congress tour (14-16 April)


The pre-congress tour will be held in the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg.  Jef Verhaeren explains: “We’ll visit wineries, a dairy farm and see Limousin cattle and Luxlait, the only dairy company of the Grand Duchy. We’ll also have dinner hosted by the minister of agriculture of the Grand Duchy. In the Belgian province of Luxembourg we’ll visit Bastogne, a nice local brewery and we’ll have dinner in the Belgian Ardennes with the agricultural executive of the province of Luxembourg.”
Journalists from developing countries, which are not yet members of the IFAJ will have their own special precongress called ‘Master class on the role of agricultural journalism in the north and south’. It takes place in Ostend and participants from the main congress who arrive early can also attend this.

The main congress (17-21 April)

Amongst the VIPs (‘very important people’) taking part in the Congress are Prof Dr Marc Van Montagu, one of the founding fathers of the plant biotechnology. He discovered how to transfer DNA-particles from one organism to another using a bacterium, which formed the basis of creating transgenic plants. He will be presenting a biotechnology seminar on Sunday morning.
On Monday 19th, delegates can choose from five different excursions - each visit will tour a different aspect of Belgian agriculture. On Tuesday morning, participants can visit farms around Ostend, visit Bruges, Ostend, or the New Holland factory of combine harvesters...or simply stay longer in bed!
At the main congress, participants will also meet the minister-president from Flanders, the Dutch speaking region of Belgium, who is also minister of agriculture. The Wallonian minister of agriculture will be present at the excursion in Wallonia.

Dacian Ciolos to address post-congress symposium

Romanian Commissioner-designate of Agriculture Dacian Ciolos answers journalists question's during an examination with members of the European parliament at the EU headquarters in Brussels on January 15, 2010. European Parliament committees are holding the first 22 of the 26 three-hour long hearings with the Commissioners-designate, assessing their suitability for membership of the European Commission and their plans for their specific portfolios. AFP PHOTO/JOHN THYS (Photo credit should read JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)

At the post-congress, delegates will meet the new European commissioner of Agriculture, Dacian Ciolos, and at a dinner in the Atomium, the European president Herman Van Rompuy.
Dacian Ciolos, newly appointed EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, will be the principal speaker at an invitation-only symposium on the Future of the Common Agricultural Policy. The event, in the Charlemagne Building in Brussels, will run from 9am to lunchtime on Thursday, April 22. Billed by the organisers, the European Commission, as a dialogue with international journalists, the symposium will include presentations on the Common Agricultural Policy in a world context, and on perspectives for rural development after 2013 by Jerzy Plewa and Josefine Loriz-Hoffmann of the Commission.  It will give IFAJ members a valuable insight into the reform after 2013 of the €50 billion per year policy for agriculture and rural development in the EU, which is the world’s No 1 agriculture trading bloc.  More...
This will be followed by a press seminar on Thursday afternoon with the theme: ‘Agricultural journalists between passion and pressure’. Communication leaders and experts including Stefan Gyssels (Jansen Farmaceutica & Animal Health), science journalist Pieter Van Dooren, Hans Siemens (chairman of the IFAJ Commission ‘Freedom of the Press’) and Karen Simon (Iowa/ Agricultural Communications Documentation Center) will speak.

Alltech Young Journalists Award winners announced

This year’s IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism awards will be presented at the 2010 IFAJ Congress in Belgium. The ten winners are Lilian Schaer, Canada; Andrea Bahrenberg, Germany; Liza Burger, South Africa; Jesus Colmenarejo, Spain; Margaret Donnelly, Ireland; Tatjana Kren Hlebic, Slovenia; Aleksandar Radovic, Serbia; Soledad Ricca, Argentina; Terhi Torikka, Finland; and Sarah Trickett, UK.
Of these, Canadian writer Lilian Schaer (pictured above) is already having a busy and successful 2010. She has been appointed editor of the American Agricultural Editors Association’s newsletter, The ByLine, as well as writing her own blog.

Alltech-sponsored Australian also heads to Belgium

Also making his way to the Congress will be Australian journalist Tom Dawkins who has won the Alltech Young Leaders in Rural Journalism Award organised by the Australian Council of Agricultural Journalists. More...

Dutch outbreak of Q disease kills 10 people

Q fever is front page news in Holland where there have been 74 outbreaks this month on dairy goat farms and two on dairy sheep farms. The mysterious Q disease has spread from farms and killed at least nine people in the country since 2007. When people inhale the contaminated dust around infected cattle, sheep and goats, they risk Q fever’s flu-like and gastrointestinal symptoms, which can last for weeks, or even months. At all 76 premises, the pregnant goats and ewes have been culled. The disease is caused by a bacterium so resilient that the US government considers it a bioterrorism agent. Measures ordered by the agriculture ministry include vaccinations, a transport ban, and slaughter of about 45,000 pregnant goats, which are believed to be the main source of human infections, which peak during the goat birthing season. Q fever is of special interest also to IFAJ members in Australia, where two cases have occurred in laboratory workers. For official statistics, visit

Swiss expedition to Cameroon

The Cameroon Federation of Agricultural Journalists has invited the Swiss Guild to give a seminar on agricultural reporting. Two travel-loving Guild committee members - Adrian Krebs and Claude Liengme - will travel to Douala to spend a week there in early April and give a three-day seminar to an expected 30 agricultural journalists. “We’re very excited about this unexpected opportunity to visit Cameroon for the first time,” explains Adrian Krebs, “And we will find out whether Cameroon could become a future member of IFAJ.”  Look out for a report of their visit, to be given during the Congress in Belgium and which will appear in a future edition of this newsletter.

The post -congress tour – ploughing up bombs from the Great War

Jef Verhaeren with just some of the bombs that farmers in the Ypres region of Belgium – infamous battle site of the Great War (1914-1918) are still digging up even today as they plough their fields. IFAJ delegates will learn more about the challenges of farming in the area, including the disposal of these bombs.