ACDC News – Issue 00-14

Reconciling nature’s jumble and straight-row beauty.

A new research report urges watershed management scientists to recognize, understand and work more closely with the perspectives that farmers bring to agricultural practices. During the past three years, a research team has interviewed central Illinois farmers to better understand their lives and habits, their agricultural and environmental practices, and the meanings behind those practices.

“We all need beauty in our lives, and farmers actively cultivate a form of beauty through practices such as straight row cropping and the straightening and dredging of stream channels,” the report says. “But modifying those channels also significantly reduces biodiversity and results in poorer stream habitats.” The researchers suggested that to communicate effectively with farmers, scientists must integrate an understanding of both natural science and social science. The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation supported their study.

Reference: Use title search (“Cultivating common ground between scientists and farmers”) or author search (Kloeppel) for the full citation.

What are farmers thinking and feeling?

If you are wondering what’s on farmers’ minds these days, you may be able to locate useful information in the Documentation Center. For example, a Subject search on only one of the relevant subject terms – “farmer attitudes” – can identify more than 400 documents.

These documents can help you tune in on farmers’ thinking (in various countries) about a wide range of topics: biotechnology, animal rights, food safety, wetland preservation and other environmental issues, risk aversion, government programs, universities and extension services, farm chemical usage, Internet and other information technologies, farming practices and others.

Let us know if we can help you locate information about farmers’ attitudes – current, or in the past – toward specific topics of interest to you.

Incentives for telecommunication investment in rural areas.

A paper entered recently into the Documentation Center collection describes some public strategies being used in various countries to reduce the telecommunications gap in rural and remote areas. Examples:

  • Issue licenses for franchises (as for cellular radio in Argentina and Mexico)
  • Delineate territories that can be served by local entities (as for telephone service in Delhi, India)
  • Open unserved areas to private franchises (as for wireless technologies in parts of the U.S.)
  • Allow carriers pricing flexibility (as for cellular systems in the Philippines)
  • Provide investment incentives (as for telecommunication facilities in Indonesia)
  • Provide service incentives (such as telephones in kiosks that also sell soft drinks and newspapers in Rwanda)

Reference: Use title search (“Global information infrastructure: the rural challenge”) or author search (Hudson) for the full citation.

New National Science Board report.

Public attitudes toward genetic engineering and the use of animals in scientific research make up part of the Board’s biennial report to the President on the state of U.S. science, engineering and technology. Chapter 8 of the report cites findings from a public attitude survey (1999) sponsored by the National Science Foundation, as well as from other studies.

Reference: Use title search (“Science and technology: public attitudes and public understanding”) for the full citation. The Science and Engineering Indicators 2000 volume is posted at

Challenges in covering environmental issues.

Journalists identified some of their current challenges during an interesting discussion in Toronto, Canada, on May 27. They spoke as panelists during a conference session, “The state and future of environmental journalism.” The Canadian Association of Journalists (Toronto Chapter) and the Society of Environmental Journalism sponsored this conference, called “Environmental Notebook I.” Here are some of the challenges mentioned:

  • Environmental issues are getting murkier (even as some water and air are becoming clearer than during the days when we could see more easily the pollution in them).
  • Assignment editors tend to favor “blood on the floor” news over environmental matters that may be much more important.
  • Lots of voices are coming into environmental debates, from many sources.
  • On-the-job training sometimes isn’t enough for journalists as they try to cover increasingly complex environmental issues.
  • Editors and others may see the environmental journalists as advocates.
  • Pressures from advertisers and other interest groups may limit coverage.

Despite the challenges

These journalists emphasized the importance of their efforts. They also shared some techniques they use and some opportunities they see. Among them:

  • New applications of web-based reporting about environmental issues.
  • Reporting on environmental issues within the context of popular topics of the day (e.g., business, health).
  • More investigative reporting, as extensions of the “awareness” reporting that characterizes much of current environmental coverage.

Reference: This discussion is available in the Center as an audiocassette. Use a title search (“The state and future of environmental journalism”) for the full citation. Contact us about how to get access to the audio proceedings.

Here are some of the information requests to which we have responded recently:

  • Role and future of professional communicators in land-grant universities
  • Resources for communicating about farm worker safety
  • Ethical dilemmas in agricultural journalism
  • Lists of agricultural reporters for metropolitan newspapers
  • Current communications efforts related to food biotechnology

Please let us know when you need information about the communications aspects of food and agriculture. We will help in any way we can.

Making information available to all.

You may have noticed the “Bobby Approved” logo on our home page. It reflects our desire and efforts to help make information in the Center accessible and usable to all persons, including those with disabilities. The Bobby software tests a web site, in terms of accessibility.

Books closely related to development communication.

Professor Royal Colle of Cornell University recently provided such a list. Most of these books have been published within the past five years. You can view the list at:

Professional meetings approaching.

Following are some conferences, workshops and other kinds of professional improvement events for agricultural communicators:

September 2-12, 2000
2000 World Congress of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) in Australia. Opens in Adelaide, SA, then progresses via selected tours to Canberra.
Information: and Sandy Grieve at

September 28 – October 1, 2000
“CFWF 2000.” Conference of the Canadian Farm Writers Federation at Lethbridge, Alberta. Theme: “Farming on the green planet – the new age of stewardship.”

October 8 – 10, 2000
“Engaged institutions’ role in biotechnology education.” Symposium at Iowa State University, Ames. For representatives of educational institutions
(K-12, community colleges, universities) as well as producer, media and business/industry partners that are involved in biotechnology education.

Best regards and good searching.

Please let us know if we can help you find information and/or if you can suggest documents that we might add to this collection.

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