ACDC News – Issue 01-02

“Rules of war for power editing.”

Agricultural editors who took part in the 2000 Agricultural Publications Summit heard a call to power editing. That’s “using all editorial strategies and devices available to maximize a publication’s power and influence in the marketplace and to keep the reader coming back for more”. An article in American Agricultural Editors’ Association ByLine newsletter reports on speaker John Brady’s remarks, including 10 traits of highly effective power editors.

Reference: Use a title search (“Give your publication a shot of ‘editude’”) or author search (Parker) for the full citation.

Current strategies in rural communicating.

An excellent multi-nation review of current strategies and methods in rural communicating came into the Documentation Center recently. Thanks to Liz Kellaway of South Australia for providing a report of her 10-week study as 1999 Churchill Fellow under the Kondinin Group Whittington Churchill Fellowship. ACDC was pleased to help host her visit in the U.S. and to provide resources for her studies.

Ms. Kellaway is general manager of Turnbull Porter Novelli Adelaide, a public relations consultancy that has specialized in rural and regional communications for 25 years. Her study took her to New Zealand, Mexico, United States, Canada, Denmark and the United Kingdom. In particular, she analyzed “communications strategies and implementation methods which (a) drive agricultural extension and farmer uptake of new technology and best practice, (b) encourage farmers to change on-farm practice, and (c) drive attitudinal change in broadacre and dairying sectors.”

Reference: Use a title search (“The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust of Australia”) or author search (Kellaway) for the full citation, including details about electronic access.

On accuracy of agricultural information. 

Do grain market advisory services beat the market? Not much during 1995-1998, according to evidence from the corn and soybean markets. The Agricultural Marketing Advisory Services (AgMAS) project based at the University of Illinois tracks advice given by more than 20 of such services. Findings for the four crop years suggest that “on average, market advisory services exhibit a small ability to ‘beat the market’ for the 1995 through 1998 corn and soybean crops.”

Results for the 1999 crop year were mixed.

An evaluation of performance in the 1999 crop year shows that the average net advisory price for corn ($2.02/bu.) was three cents below the market benchmark price. The net advisory price for soybeans ($5.67/bu) was 17 cents above the market benchmark. “The average revenue achieved by following both the corn and soybean programs offered by an advisory service was…$2.00 per acre more than the market benchmark revenue for 1999.” Performance ranged widely among the services.

Reference: Use a subject search (“advisory services”) for these citations, as well as other documents that report on the accuracy and economic value of information from market advisory services. Some are available online.

Views on science in the public milieu.

Here is a sampling of comments that have come to our attention recently:

  • “Science is simply the sum of our knowledge. It is not always accurate, it is always incomplete and it is always changing. But at any given moment it is the best understanding of reality achieved by thousands of years of human discovery.” Reference: Use a title search (“Anti-science activists entertain but don’t enlighten”) or author search (Avery) for the full citation, including URL reference.
  • “Perhaps it would be convenient if social and political factors didn’t intrude on the practice of science if new technologies took root and spread without regard to the influences of wealth, power and dominance, if inventions served human need above human greed. In some other universe it might be so – but not in ours. Divorcing the GMO debate from its larger cultural context doesn’t just present a false (if comforting) science-versus-ignorance dichotomy; it also deprives your readers of information they need to understand thoughtful and legitimate opposition to the biotech enterprise.” Reference: Use a title search (“Debating the food debate”) or author search (Maurer) for the full citation.

OECD reviews the market aspects of agricultural biotechnology

In a recent report from the Committee for Agriculture of that international organization. The 53-page analysis from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris, addresses topics such as adoption of genetically engineered varieties, dimensions of consumer response, labeling and other market-related aspects.

Reference: Use a title search (“Modern biotechnology and agricultural markets”) or author search (Fulponi) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

When did agricultural journalism begin, as a professional field?

In the U.S., some historical accounts begin with the emergence of college courses and degree programs (early 1900s), or with the first agricultural periodicals (early to mid-1800s). However, one author in the ACDC collection (Donald Marti) has suggested that “agricultural journalism began during the years around the War of 1812” as agricultural societies became active in New England. From his perspective, “societies recognized the value of journalistic support well before agricultural papers first began.”

Reference: Use a title search (“To improve the soil and the mind”) or author search (Marti) for the full citation.

And how about Year 1200?

Recently we identified and added to the ACDC collection a reference that tracks agricultural writers in England back to the year 1200. Author Donald McDonald reports that the oldest agricultural documents in England were mostly compilations by educated monks who had studied the writings of Greek and Roman scholars. An example: “Sir Walter of Henley’s Treatise on Husbandry.” Sir Walter of Henley appears to have served as bailiff or perhaps monk in charge at one of the manors connected with Canterbury Cathedral. His treatise in 1200 was a “survey of the management of men and animals.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Agricultural writers from Sir Walter of Henley to Arthur Young, 1200-1800”) or author search (McDonald) for the full citation.

Do you know of other historical literature about early agricultural journalism/writing and journalists/writers?

If so, we would like to know of it and use it to strengthen a growing, important historical section of the ACDC collection. You can review current documents in that section by conducting a cross-search with subject terms such as: <history AND “farm journals”>.

Surprises from a U.S. study about farm computer adoption.

Authors of an article in the April 1999 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics found some. “One of our most surprising results was that education appears to have little or no impact [on farm computer adoption], whereas previous studies have identified a link.” The authors suggested further review of the possibility that education and experience are “substitutes rather than complements for computer services.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Farm computer adoption in the Great Plains”) or author search (Hoag) for the full citation.

Approaching professional event.

Following are some conferences and other kinds of professional improvement events about agriculture-related communicating:

February 15, 2001
“Genetic manipulation or information manipulation?” Presentation at a meeting of the Rural Media Association of South Australia. Features a representative of the Commonwealth Government agency, Biotechnology Australia.
Information: Visit RMA web site via the ACDC “Related Links” page.

March 15, 2001
Deadline for abstracts of proposed communications research presentations at the 2001 Agricultural Communicators in Education/ National Extension Technology Conference (ACE/NETC).
Information: Joan S. Thomson at

A thought about visions

“Visions without actions are just hallucinations.”
Comment by Paula Kaufman, University of Illinois Librarian, in “State of the UIUC Library,” September 5, 2000.

Best regards and good searching.

Please pass along your reactions, questions and ideas for ACDC. Feel free to invite our help as you search for information. And please suggest (or send) agricultural communications documents that we might add to this collection. We welcome documents in hard copy or electronic forms. Thank you.

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