Many are looking forward with interest to the new television series, "America's Heartland", to be aired starting this fall on PBS stations across the nation. It is a based on a very successful model created by the producers originally for the regional program, "California Heartland", one that tells the tale of the positive benefits of agriculture. The show's primary sponsors are Monsanto and the American Farm Bureau Federation, with additional production and promotion assistance by groups such as the American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, U.S. Grains Council, and National Cotton Council. However, a variety of groups came forward a month before the show was even scheduled to air to vocally lobby P.B.S. and its affiliates to keep "America's Heartland" from even airing. You might have heard of some of those groups protesting &Greenpeace, The Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and the Animal Welfare Institute. So what did Jim O'Donnell, Executive Producer of "America's Heartland" and the folks at show producer KVIE in Sacramento and distributor American Public Television think about the protest?
O'DONNELL: We were just frankly kind of shocked and amazed that somebody could be so heavily opposed to something that they quite literally had never seen. More importantly, during the eight years that we produced and aired California Heartland, we didn't receive one protest, because this was not an issues show, it was a celebration of the hard work and values that American farmers have, and how they labor in anonymity.
And that heavy push by this coalition of activists led to pro-ag groups like the Food Forethought Foundation to put on their own push to encourage farm and ranch organizations to show support to make sure the show would air. So what was the point of contention? The groups had a specific complaint about an upcoming episode that focused on genetically engineered crops. But O'Donnell said there was also a general theme to the complaints of the anti-farm coalition.
O'DONNELL: There concern was largely that a show sponsored by Monsanto and the Farm Bureau could only and would only show big ag. And nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, during our eight years of "California Heartland" we did literally hundreds of stories that featured sustainable ag, talked about renewing resources, organic producers, small farm owners.
And O'Donnell says the number of affiliates for "America's Heartland" continues to grow in spite of the protest. More in our next program.