Sunday, September 20, 2009

R.I.P.: Bernie Brenner, a leading farm journalist of the 20th Century, is dead at 87

Longtime agricultural journalist Bernard Brenner, who made a career of explaining the relationship between the field and dinner table to farmers and urban dwellers alike, died Sept. 17 of lung cancer. He was 87. Much of his coverage detailed post-war changes in American agriculture, rural life, international trade, global food supply and the politics of environmental issues and food safety.

Brenner was the longtime farm editor for United Press International, when it was a major wire service, and was president of the Newspaper Farm Editors of America, now the North American Agricultural Journalists, in 1975. The group gave him its J.S. Russell Memorial Award in 1966 and its Distinguished Service Award in 1978, when he retired after 34 years with UPI. He became press secretary for the House Agriculture Committee, first under Rep. Tom Foley of Washington, who later became speaker of the House. He left the job in 1987 and freelanced until the mid-1990s. He lived in Gainesville, Va. and was a 1943 agricultural-journalism graduate of the University of Missouri.

"Bernie Brenner was a giant in the agricultural journalism profession, deeply respected for insightful reporting of how the Congress and the executive branch influenced and dealt with a revolution in farming and food," said the late Sonja Hillgren, editor of Farm Journal and one of the early women presidents of the National Press Club. "Then he became the best and most fair press secretary I ever encountered." For the obituary in The Washington Post, click here. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Pierce's Funeral Home in Manassas, with burial at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Ewing, N.J., Cemetery. Contributions in lieu of flowers go to Capital Hospice in Falls Church.

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