Newspaper article International New York Times

Farmer Cartoonist Fired after What Is Seen as Criticism of Agribusinesses

Newspaper article International New York Times

Farmer Cartoonist Fired after What Is Seen as Criticism of Agribusinesses

Article excerpt

A cartoon that some saw as an attack on big agribusiness cost an editorial cartoonist for a small farming publication his job after 21 years.

Rick Friday was not immediately available last week to explain why he was fired after two decades working as a cartoonist for Farm News. That is because he was feeding the cows on his Iowa farm, as he does early every morning before most people have gone to work.

But the cartoon that got him into trouble late last month had already spoken for him, circulating online well beyond the audience of the thousands of Farm News readers of his weekly "It's Friday" column, which has been published since 1995.

The cartoon shows two farmers, in overalls and skewed baseball caps, chatting at a fence.

"I wish there was more profit in farming," one farmer says.

"There is," the other replies. "In year 2015 the C.E.O.s of Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer and John Deere combined made more money than 2,129 Iowa farmers."

After the cartoon was published on April 29, Mr. Friday said he was told in an email from an editor the next day that the cartoon would be his last for Farm News because a seed company had withdrawn its advertising in protest.

For Mr. Friday, 56, the termination came as a shock. He has not only lived the farm life since he was a child, but he has also used it as his muse in illustrations for just as long. He is a self- taught artist who picked up a No.2 pencil when he was growing up on a 300-acre livestock and grains farm in Lorimor, Iowa. As a child, he sold sketches to other children on the school bus for a nickel or a dime.

So when he was contacted by a reporter on Wednesday after he posted the news of his firing on Facebook and it was picked up by local media, Mr. Friday had a good reason for not being able to chat right away. It was still early, before 9 a.m. Iowa time, and he was being interrupted while feeding corn to the animals on his 200-acre cattle farm.

When he paused to talk, he revealed he was leaning against a fence, and the heifers were staring at him, hard.

"They are going, 'How come you are not feeding me right now?"' Mr. Friday said. "And I have got some bulls around the corner that are patiently waiting for me to feed them, too.

"I am a little bit behind, because my phone has been ringing off the hook."

He agreed to talk after the cows were fed.

Later, Mr. Friday, who sometimes answers to "Ricky," (which is what the older women in town call him) said that the rural life had inspired the 1,090 cartoons he had drawn in pen in the 21 years he had been illustrating his Farm News column.

As with the others, he sketched the offending cartoon at his kitchen table. Then, as always, he scanned it, emailed it to an editor and asked for confirmation that it had been received. It had been.

Usually, Mr. …

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