Many of you received the stimulus funds distributed across the U.S. Whether that $1,200 went toward bills or was put back into our economy, it was a bump in income that many needed. In agriculture, specifically livestock, we just experienced the first rollout of a livestock stimulus package focused on agriculture. While none of these programs are perfect — and none provide long-term solutions — they have provided short-term relief to many. COVID-19 has us all thinking differently about our local communities. We are thinking about local foods and local schools. We are depending more on our local news, but what kind of support have our local media outlets received? Some have accessed small-business loans, or payroll assistance, but what about the long-term?
Our hometown paper, radio and TV stations provide local news, weather, sports and entertainment. They depend on advertising. In the era of COVID-19, advertising budgets were the first on the chopping block for many businesses. This makes it difficult or impossible for them to provide the local information we need now more than ever.
For good or for bad, we are now relying more on our federal and local government than any time in recent memory. We are also more closely watching the news than before. In order for our local media to survive, it only makes sense that federal advertising dollars should be spent with our local media markets. Urban centers have access to a multitude of communication networks, while rural regions, like our own, rely on only a few media outlets to provide state-specific and national coverage.
These stations provided constant coverage and emergency updates over the past few months and it is now time for us to help provide the same support they did for us.
Our elected officials must prioritize local advertising dollars be spent in local media. The next stimulus package should include this direction. Doing so would provide a workable and long-term solution for our local broadcasters in meeting their bottom line. You can find more information about this effort online at ruralag.org/action-center.
Jack Alexander serves as the president & chairman of the Rural & Agriculture Council of America - a consortium of mayors, county commissioners, ranchers, farmers, producers, main street business owners, and leaders in rural America. He has over 30 years of experience in natural resource management.