Foot and mouth puts jobs at risk on farming titles

Farming News to close in August


Journalists working on farming titles could lose their jobs as a result of the foot and mouth crisis, the editor of Farmers Weekly said this week.

Stephen Howe, editor of Farmers Weekly, said that the market had already been under "tremendous pressure" over the past four years but the impact of foot and mouth disease had caused a knock-on effect on advertising. "It has had an impact on all journalism and it has had an impact on Farmers Weekly," he said.

Howe’s comments came after the proposed closure of Farming News which could result in at least 10 job losses for staff and freelances at CMP Information (formerly United Business Media).

"We get roughly one third of our income from classified and clearly it has affected our revenue because farmers have been prevented from travelling around the country," Howe said.

"We get roughly a third of our income from display advertising and there have been cutbacks by some pharmaceutical and machinery companies." Howe predicted further job losses for journalists within the sector.

"Magazines will be under a lot of pressure. There are still more than 120 titles serving the agricultural industry, most of them are free and depend on display advertising," he said.

"Farmers’ income is at the lowest level since the Thirties, we have had swine fever in the UK, foot and mouth disease and the strength of the pound has been working against the industry. It will pick up but it will be a different industry." Howe suggested farming titles should focus more on business issues, which are a growing concern for farmers.

The proposed closure of Farming News forms part of a major restructure of the agricultural division. Although it is not expected to cease publication until the end of August, its staff, as well as some on its sister titles, Arable Farming and Dairy Farmer, are currently in a period of consultation.

Alan Whibley, group director of the agricultural titles, played down the impact of the foot and mouth outbreak on the closure. Farming News relies mainly on display advertising with a controlled circulation of 60,000. "The foot and mouth crisis has not been the apocalypse we thought it might have been," Whibley told Press Gazette.

It is understood the downsizing of the internet arm, farmgate, also contributed to the closure.

CMP now plans to introduce some elements from Farming News into Farmers Guardian.

Commenting on the closure plan, Farming News editor Jim van den Bos said: "It has come as a great disappointment to all the staff who have worked very hard for the title."

By Ruth Addicott

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