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Online access, savvy growing in farm country

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Last month, Penton Media announced the promotion of Greg Frey to VP of its agriculture group. Frey will be responsible for the company's crop publications, which include the Farm Press titles Corn and Soybean Digest and Farm Industry News, as well as the company's livestock titles, including Beef, Hay & Forage Grower and National Hog Farmer. He was most recently group publisher of the crop publications. BtoB spoke with Frey recently about trends that affect the way marketers target the agriculture industry today. BtoB: What should companies keep in mind as they market to an audience of farmers and ranchers? Frey: There's definitely been a shift to an online focus in addition to traditional media venues such as direct mail, print, broadcast and database management. One of the major factors is that farmers, especially classification 1A farmers—individuals that have $100,000 or more in gross revenue—are becoming more online savvy. They are consuming more content online, and they're consuming more data online. With data, they're looking primarily for two things: [information about] commodities and weather. Weather is a huge influence, as are commodities, in the marketplace. To give you background, the growers and ranchers of America have been behind in regard to the high-speed-access wave that has been hitting the country now for at least 10 years. Their adaptability [to the Web] has been slow primarily because in rural areas, [high-speed access was limited, and so it was more difficult] to reach these individuals. In the last several years ... growers' high-speed access has grown exponentially, and dial-up has been going away. They're now able to consume vast quantities of data and content, and are becoming able to surf the Net much more easily than in the past. BtoB: What are the biggest challenges facing agriculture right now? Frey: The biggest challenge is energy. Energy has a big effect on growers right now across all regions. Most of the inputs that growers use on a consistent basis are influenced by energy in all facets. For example, fertilizer is based on energy production. The higher the energy cost, the higher the fertilizer cost. Growers consume vast quantities of diesel fuel to till their fields, harvest and irrigate, so it's very expensive.
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