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Monsanto's "America's farmers" campaign spotlights ag's success.

The importance of telling agriculture's story--and countering a current wave of misinformation--is the motivation behind Monsanto's America's Farmers campaign, which was launched this past fall.

The campaign features an educational web site www.AmericasFarmers.com, which provides facts about the U.S. farming industry, a series of broadcast and print ads targeting urban consumers and outreach efforts to improve rural communities. It has also been featured at farm shows over the past six months and was expanded this spring to recognize the many contributions of farm moms and wives.

"This campaign is focused on getting out the facts about America's farm families," says Mark Halton, Monsanto's Corporate Marketing and Communications Lead. "It's a story that needs to be told, and as a leading agricultural company, Monsanto feels we have a responsibility to help tell it."

Featuring real farm families, the multimillion dollar ad campaign consists of television, radio and newspaper ads designed to reach a broad consumer audience, primarily in the Midwest and South. The ads highlight how America's farmers grow our economy, care for the land and provide for us every day. They show how the U.S. agriculture industry exports nearly $100 billion of crops and products, while providing more than 24 million jobs here at home.

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The ads also emphasize that U.S. farmers grow more food now than they did just a few decades ago, while using nearly half the energy and fewer resources for every bushel produced.

The TV campaign included 30-and 60-second commercials airing in about 20 markets of varying sizes. These spots ran in a broad programming mix, including early morning, prime time, news, sporting events, including the 2010 Winter Olympics, and special programming, such as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Full-color, page-dominant print ads appeared in Sunday editions of major daily newspapers, while the radio campaign has featured 60-second spots in a mix of formats and time periods.

To date, the campaign has included:

* More than 18,000 spots airing on approximately 75 TV stations.

* More than 20,000 spots airing on approximately 700+ radio stations.

* The estimated number of impressions generated will be in excess of 500 million.

In addition, all elements of the campaign web site are sharable via social media, including one of the most popular components, the "Some Food for Thought" video, which has received more than 10,000 views on YouTube. Monsanto has also promoted the campaign through various social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the company's blog.

DISPELLING MYTHS

Halton says the campaign goal is to recognize the role of American farmers and to address the myths being perpetuated that distort agriculture's true, positive contributions.

"Today's farmers are faced with a future of challenges their parents and grandparents couldn't have imagined," Halton notes. "Today, agriculture is at the intersection of some of the most dynamic forces affecting our daily lives, including climate change, food price and availability, water resources and the developing world."

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These dynamics have put agriculture in the spotlight. Setting the record straight, Halton notes, will require a unified industry effort. "We strongly desire a broad coalition on this initiative and believe it will take the industry speaking as one honoring the American farmer."

"We must come together to tell the story of U.S. agriculture and dispel information in recent films and magazine articles that misrepresent the environmental stewardship and food safety provided by American farmers and the importance of their economic contributions."

POSITIVE FEEDBACK

Halton says reaction to the America's Farmers campaign from consumers has been very positive. He reports, "Our research shows that we're starting to have an impact on getting consumers to have a better understanding of the important role of American farm families, but this will obviously take a continued effort."

That appreciation was demonstrated before Thanksgiving when visitors to the web site could "thank a farmer" for their contributions. Many of the posted messages praised farmers for their role, calling them "the backbone of our country" and "unsung heroes."

A message submitted by Kevin was typical: "I would like to thank all the farmers for what you do for my family and our country and to let you know you are appreciated," he wrote. Pat, of Syracuse, NY, posted this message: "You are taken for granted too often ... we all are very blessed that you do what you do."

Farmer reaction has also been very appreciative. "I think farmers, by nature, are not the kind of people who promote themselves," Halton says. "But they are deeply proud of and committed to what they do. They appreciate efforts by Monsanto as well as others in our industry who are helping to tell their story."

RECOGNIZING FARM MOMS

As an extension of the campaign, this spring Monsanto launched the "America's Farmers Mom of the Year" contest. The program, tied to Mother's Day, recognizes the countless contributions that farm moms and wives bring to their families, their farms and their communities.

"Whether it's driving the combine, keeping the books or raising the next generation of farmers, women play a vital role in the success of the American farm family," says Tami Craig Schilling, Monsanto's Director of Technology Communication.

Applications for the America's Farmers Mom of the Year were accepted, at www.AmericasFarmers.com through April 9,2010. The American Agri-Women, a national coalition of women's farm, ranch and agribusiness organizations, partnered with Monsanto to spearhead the judging process.

Five regional winners will be announced April 19, with each winning a $5,000 cash prize. Of these, one will be named Farm Mom of the Year the week before Mother's Day, based on online voting on the America's Farmers web site, and win an additional $2,500.

A CONTINUING EFFORT

The America's Farmers campaign actually represents a continuation of numerous Monsanto-backed initiatives to support and recognize U.S. farmers.

For example, for the past five years, the company has partnered with the American Farm Bureau Federation as major sponsors of the weekly public television show, America's Heartland, which airs in 19 of the top 25 PBS markets across the country as well as RFD-TV. The series spotlights the contributions of America's farmers and ranchers in all 50 states.

Monsanto also has a longstanding commitment to ag youth. "We know that the next generation of farmers will be the ones who will need to help feed the next three billion inhabitants of our planet, and, like their fathers and mothers before them, they will need to produce more with less," Craig Schilling says. "That is why we are committed to youth in agriculture, such as 4-H and FFA, providing scholarships and leadership opportunities to equip the agriculture leaders of tomorrow."

More recently, the company began reaching out to opinion leaders in agriculture with an ad campaign promoting its commitment to help farmers produce more, conserve more and improve lives. The print and radio campaign ran in the Washington, D.C., area and was intended to influence policy makers on the benefits of modern agriculture and the positive contributions of U.S. farmers. This campaign is credited with creating a more favorable perception among both Democrat and Republican policy makers for biotech seeds as part of the solution to improve agriculture productivity.

Monsanto is also a member of the "Field to Market" initiative, a diverse group of grower organizations, agribusinesses, food companies, economists and conservation groups focused on defining, measuring and improving food sustainability and fiber production. Field to Market is facilitated by the Keystone Center, a non-profit organization specializing in environment, energy and health policy collaboration.

The company's commitment to sustainable agriculture is the underpinning of its dedication to the American farmer. Monsanto is focused on enabling both small-holder and large-scale farmers to produce more from their land while conserving more of our world's natural resources such as water and energy.

"None of this is achieved without the farmer," Halton emphasizes. "It's the farmer who will actually double yields with reduced inputs, and the output of their efforts helps improve lives. We want to honor farmers for their commitment to the rest of us. That is why Monsanto is stepping forward to lend our support to help tell people about the success of U.S. agriculture."

Based on the success of the campaign to date, Monsanto intends to sustain advocacy with continued communication and outreach efforts. "Focus groups with farmers reveal that they look to Monsanto to continue to be champions for agriculture," Halton explains. "Public perceptions won't change overnight and long-term efforts are needed."

FACTS ABOUT U.S. FARMING

Here are some of the facts about U.S. agriculture featured on AmericasFarmers.com:

* To keep up with population growth, more food will have to be produced in the next 40 years as the past 10,000 years combined.

* Today, the average U.S. farmer feeds 155 people. In 1960, a farmer fed just 26 people.

* Today's farmer grows twice as much food as their parents did--using less land, energy, water and fewer emissions.

* American farmers ship more than $100 billion of their crops and products to many nations.

* U.S. farmers produce about 40% of the world's corn, using only 20% of the total area harvested in the world.

* Farmers are a direct lifeline to more than 24 million U.S. jobs in all kinds of industries.

* In the past five years, U.S. farm operators have become more demo-graphically diverse. The 2007 census counted nearly 30% more women as principal farm operators. The count of Hispanic operators grew by 10%, and the counts of American Indian, Asian and African-American farm operators increased, as well.

by the Agri Marketing Editors
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Title Annotation:www.AmericasFarmers.com
Publication:Agri Marketing
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2010
Words:1604
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