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Orion Samuelson Sez: 'Promoting Agriculture Starts with You'
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 02/01/2013

In his 60-plus years in the profession, Orion Samuelson says he has heard farmers say over and over again: 'we just have to do a better job at telling our story.' But the nationally-renowned farm broadcaster confesses that if producers are truly interested in making their industry grow, they must be the first to take action. Speaking to a record crowd at the kick-off session of the Corn/Soy Expo in Wisconsin Dells on Thursday, Samuelson stressed that the everyday conversations people have with neighbors, at coffee shops and family gatherings are where people really get to know more about each other.

"Don't just assume that people understand what you do on your farms," he said. "They probably don't care what time you get up to milk your cows, just like you probably don't think about what it's like for people in the big city to drive in rush hour traffic. But the bridge has to go both ways."

Orion, who often speaks proudly about his upbringing in rural Wisconsin, said it's exciting to know that science is on the side of agriculture. But he says the 24-hour media cycle tends to send messages that don't necessarily talk about things that are relevant. And that makes it even more important for the industry to be ready to share its message when they are able to.

"I remember watching the news after Christmas and all we heard about is the fiscal cliff and who's tax rate is going to be affected," Samuelson told the crowd. "But with the exception of the ag media, did any of the news programs talk about the implications of not passing the farm bill? In fact, all we hear now days is about Lance Armstrong. Is that really relevant?"

His address also consisted of some inspiration. Orion says in all of his years reporting on the markets, one thing that never fails is the fact that prices trends never stay the same forever--there's always a correction in the market.

"The key to proper risk management is coming up with a plan and having the discipline to stick with it," he advised. "For example, I hear all too often of people who were going to sell a commodity when the price hits $15. But when that price finally moved there, they held on thinking they would try to get just a little bit more. Folks, you have to have a plan and stick with it or you'll get yourself into trouble."

Samuelson also reflected on the writing of his new autobiography, You Can't Dream Big Enough. He says the project was something he had thought about for many years.

"We all have a book to write... we are writing it everyday from the time we were born. I would encourage you to jot down some of your own experiences, even if it's just for your family to read."

The book includes his experience of dropping out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison after just three weeks because he was more interested in learning about broadcasting than how to write. Orion also shared how he came up through the ranks at local Wisconsin radio and television stations before arriving at WGN in Chicago, where he has been a fixture since 1960.

The Wisconsin Corn/Soy Expo continues on Friday with its tradeshow and educational seminars. A keynote address by Gen. Wesley Clark will talk about the importance of biofuels in the nation's quest for better national security. And Kansas State University Economist Barry Flinchbaugh will discuss his observations about the pending farm bill and how the industry will be impacted by that legislation.

The conference serves as the annual meeting venue of the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board, Wisconsin Soybean Association, Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board, Wisconsin Pork Association and Wisconsin Agri-Business Association.

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