ACDC News – Issue 01-03

Americans believe life has gotten worse for farmers.

That’s the clear picture sketched by a 1999 nationwide survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.
Question: “Has life gotten better or worse for this group of Americans over the past 50 years? Here’s how Americans responded concerning farmers:

  • Life has gotten better for them                 20 percent
  • Life has gotten worse for them                 65 percent
  • Same                                                          5 percent
  • Don’t know/Refused                                 10 percent

Among the 15 groups listed for response, farmers and teenagers (56 percent “worse”) were the only two groups identified by a majority of respondents as having lives worsened during the past 50 years.

Reference: Use a title search (“Technology triumphs, morality falters: public perspectives on the American century”) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Canadians also concerned about their farmers.

Research during 1999 by the Angus Reid Group revealed that more than seven in ten Canadians believe that Canadian farmers “really are facing severe problems right now.” About two-thirds of the respondents said they think that “farmer protests – such as blocking traffic or holding rallies – are either a very effective (15%) or a somewhat effective (49%) way to inform the public about the poor farm economy.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Commercial farming worse than last year”) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

“Just a rampant wild argument” – Internet and the GM debate.

“This is a debate of speed and complexity,” suggests Drew Smith on the site. “And of course, it being broadcast on the Internet means there is no clear line or decision, just a rampant wild argument in which neither side is really listening to the other.” Smith adds, “.if it were not for the Internet it would be impossible for any other medium to monitor the worldwide arrival of what is one of the greatest ethical issues of our time.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Fuelling the fire”) or author search (Smith) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Dysfunction: the fruits of competing messages about biotechnology.

A new report in the ACDC collection reveals that 62 percent of Canadians surveyed last summer were either “not very familiar” or “not at all familiar” with biotechnology. Only 5 percent said they were “very familiar” with the issue. In fact, the reported level of familiarity with this subject was slightly lower than it was two years earlier. Why? “This may be because of competing public messages about the risks and benefits of biotechnology.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Canadians wary of genetically modified foods”) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Are consumers also being driven to bad diets by mixed messages?

What happens when consumers hear mixed messages about what foods they should or should not eat? “Conflicting reports.are driving Americans to bad diets,” according to a reported study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. According to the lead author, “The more negative and confused people feel about dietary recommendations, the more likely they are to eat a fat-laden diet that skimps on fruits and vegetables.” Related findings of this study among adults in Washington (state) hoist caution flags for professional communicators:

  • More than 40 percent of the Washington (state) adults surveyed said they were tired of hearing about what foods they should or should not eat.
  • Seventy percent said the government should not tell people what to eat.

Reference: Use a title search (“Food news blamed for bad diets”) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Ways to make food safety more “hip.”

An entertaining release from the Marketing and Technology Group offers “Top ten ways” to do so. Sample:

“Arrange for Thermy the food-safety mascot to arrive at grade-school function in stretch limo packed with posse of MTV rap artists.”

Reference: Use title search (“Top ten ways to make food safety more ‘hip'”) or author search (Murphy) for the full citation.

Ethical pressures on Australian rural journalists.

An interesting research report added recently to the ACDC collection concluded, “the influence of advertisers pervades Australia’s rural papers.” Chris Tallentire conducted this study as an honours project in the agribusiness degree program at Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia.

Part of his project involved a survey during 1998 among rural print journalists who work with generalist agricultural papers throughout Australia. Here are sample findings about the strength and sources of advertiser-based pressure:

  • 84 percent of respondents said that attempts by advertisers to influence what stories appear were “harming the profession” (26 percent) or “a problem in some cases” (58 percent).
  • 60 percent reported that attempts by publishers or editors to slant stories to please advertisers were “harming the profession” (34 percent) or “a problem in some cases” (26 percent).
  • Among the 40 percent who said attempts from publishers or editors were “not a problem,” nearly one-half said that during the past year they had received advertising withdrawal threats from advertisers displeased by editorial copy.

Reference: Use a title search (“The influence of advertisers”) or author search (Tallentire) for the full citation.

What documents should be collected?

A recent article in Agricultural and Resource Economics Review sparks thought here at the Documentation Center about this question. It confronts us each time we see a document and decide whether it should become part of the collection. Authors of the Review article were assessing the quality of research reporting by agricultural economists. In their conclusion, they said: “Published research, even if it has weaknesses, is still superior to unpublished work (even without weaknesses).”

We use the same point of view in reviewing documents for this collection. Rigor and excellence in communications research delight us. We look for relevant, rigorous analyses wherever we can find them. But thought pieces, editorials, evaluative summaries, limited case reports and other kinds of information about agriculture-related communicating can also offer value. Especially in human communication, opinions can be as important as facts. And, as the economists put it, we tend to think that “published research, even if it has weaknesses, is still superior to unpublished work…”

Your thoughts on the subject?

It’s milking time. Want to watch?

Rural-urban communicating is taking new forms in the dairy barn. More than a million Internet users watched corn grow last season on CornCam. So why not help acquaint people with other aspects of agriculture? A news release from Iowa Farmer Today announces a new website that permits viewers to watch activities in a 220-cow Dairy Center at Northeast Iowa Community College. The URL of this joint venture is Cameras monitor three areas: milking parlor, calving area and free-stall barn.

Reference: Use a title search (“Watch DairyCam”) for the full citation, including URL for online access to the release.

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 them in hard copy (sent to Ag Com Documentation Center, 69 Mumford Hall, University of Illinois, 1301 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801) or electronic form ( Thank you.

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