Editor Sonny Perdue

The January issue of Successful Farming magazine is making history. U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is the magazine’s first guest editor in its 116-years of publication. The USDA has never done this before, either. More than 20 pages of the magazine are dedicated to educating farmers on what the USDA does.

Dave Kurns is the magazine’s editorial content director. He approached the USDA and threw the idea out to Secretary Perdue’s communications team. They ran it by Perdue, and he approved. From there, Kurns says he set some ground rules.

"We would propose the story ideas and then let him review those, and we would write the stories. So we authored them, we didn’t let the USDA write any of the content other than the Secretary’s editor’s letter," says Kurns. "But, it was really more like review and comment rather than write or edit specific stories. I feel good about that, that our editors, who know farmers and our audience really well, told these stories."

 Kurns says he’ll be really interested to see readers’ reaction to it.

"I hope more than anything, they come to really understand all the different dimensions of the USDA," he says. "One of the stories we did was on the Forest Service. We’ve had two straight years of record number of wildfires, and it’s managed and overseen by the Forest Service, and that’s part of the USDA. So, that’s a whole new dimension that farmers may not understand but come to realize that’s also under Secretary Perdue’s responsibilities."