Thursday, May 05, 2016

Iowa farm-paper cartoonist says weekly fired him for upsetting advertiser linked to major corporation

A freelance Iowa cartoonist said he was fired this week after a company affiliated with a major corporation threatened to pull advertising in response to his cartoon "that bemoaned Iowa farmers' dwindling profits while CEOs at large agricultural corporations earn millions of dollars," Donnelle Eller reports for The Des Moines Regiser. Rick Friday's cartoons have appeared in Farm News, a weekly publication of The Fort Dodge Messenger, for 21 years. His last cartoon said the CEOs of Deere & Co., Monsanto Co. and DuPont Pioneer made more money than 2,129 Iowa farmers last year. Friday wrote on Facebook: "A large affiliated company 'was insulted and canceled their advertisement with the paper, thus, resulting in the reprimand of my editor and cancellation of 'It's Friday' cartoons.'"

CEOs at the three companies "earned about $52.9 million last year, based on Morningstar data," Eller writes. "Profits for the three companies, all with large operations across Iowa, also have declined as farm income has been squeezed. After peaking in 2013, U.S. farm income this year is projected to fall to $183 billion, its lowest level since 2002.

Publisher Larry Bushman, who refused to say why the newspaper would no longer publish Friday, said it was an editorial decision, Eller writes. "Farm News Editor Larry Kershner said he couldn't comment about the decision. DuPont and Monsanto officials said the companies were unaware of the cartoon until the media brought it to their attention." A Deere spokesman wasn't available for comment. (Read more)

This isn't the first time corporate discomfiture has squelched independent journalism about agriculture. The late Derry Brownfield lost his program on his own network (which he had sold) in 2008 after refusing to tone down criticism of Monsanto's patenting its seed corn.

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