A big party in Texas

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They say everything is bigger in Texas. Well, this week I've been fortunate to be part of one of the biggest gatherings of ag communicators on earth —a big party in Texas where American and foreign ag communicators are coming to learn a few things, network and just have some fun.

We're in Ft. Worth, Texas, where we are holding the annual Agricultural MediaSummit along with the annual meeting of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ). In all we will have 700 people here in talking about farmers, global ag issues, and swapping ideas on how to better reach our farm family audiences. Here you can find updates from the Congress.

Don't get me wrong - we have had a few serious deliberations already. Kansas State Ag Economist Barry Flinchbaugh and former Congressman Charlie Stenholm, a 'blue dog' democrat from Texas, debated the hot issues of the day, including food vs. fuel, renewable fuels, farm programs and animal rights. These guys respect each other and pulled no punches as they laid out a vision for where the nation needs to go on a wide range of policies.

I was lucky enough to be elected president of the IFAJ when we held our last annual meeting, or Congress, in Austria September 2008. I've been coming to IFAJ meetings held around the world for 14 years and this is the first time I won't have jet lag!

When we first dreamed up the idea of bringing the IFAJ Congress to Texas five years ago, the idea was to show our foreign colleagues a slice of Americana we call the Wild West — in other words, give people a chance to let their inner cowboy work out. About 120 journalists from other nations have flown in to take part in the meetings.

Those of you who know me know I am serious about showing people a good time and always sampling the local culture. Two nights ago we were at Billy Bob's, the world's largest honky tonk, and later on it was a rodeo at the Cowtown Coliseum. Did I mention we've been sampling the culture? Beer. Lots of good Texas beer. They serve it at Billy Bob's, a place that is big enough to house every person from my home town and probably the rival school down the road. It is a good thing they have beer there because it may be days before you find your way out and you need something to survive on.

Farmers might be surprised to know that those of us who work in ag media, especially farm magazines, actually like each other and work on these kinds of projects. Sure we are competitors, but we're still friends and colleagues and realize we have a lot we can learn from each other. It was that kind of spirited cooperation that has allowed our American organization, the American Agricultural Editors' Association, along with the Livestock Publications Council and Agribusiness Council, to put together the summit as well as plan out the events for the IFAJ congress. I'd have to say my colleagues have done a fantastic job judging by the rave comments I'm hearing from the foreign guests.

To learn more about IFAJ you can check out our website. And you'll find lots of pictures and stories from this meeting at www.agwired.com

It's a good feeling to know you've been involved in something of this magnitude. It's even better to know your 'out-of-town' guests are having a good time and learning something along the way. That's the best kind of party!

(In an upcoming blog I'll share with you some of the ideas we heard from Mr. Stenholm and Professor Flinchbaugh).


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