ACDC News – Issue 01-18

“Don’t get discouraged,” Smokey.

That’s the advice of April Baily, a U.S. Forest Service officer, in her 55th birthday letter to Smokey the Bear. The letter appeared in the Fall 1999 issue of Fire Management Notes and was added recently to the campaign-related documents in our ACDC collection.

Can a public information campaign be too successful? Not this one, Baily thinks. “I know lots of people lately have criticized your prevention message, saying that the years of prevention have actually made the fire problem worse by allowing fuels to build up to the point where a conflagration is inevitable when a spark is struck. But I know that your message was always aimed at keeping people from carelessly starting the fires that destroy not just trees, but also the homes of people who share your woodlands.”

Reference: Use a title search (“A birthday letter to Smokey”) or author search (Baily) for the citation, including URL for online access.

U.S. farmers to rely less on print media? 

Representatives of competitive media are pointing to indications in the 2001 Ag Media Research study that producers may consider doing so. A National Association of Farm Broadcasters news release added recently to the ACDC collection reports on responses from nearly 5,000 producers in 19 states. According to the release, “print magazines currently are rated by 84% of the producers as their primary source of in-depth information when given a choice of magazines or the Internet. . However, when producers were asked what their best in-depth source would be just five years from now, 45% of the producers that currently held magazines as their top choice, believed their use could change.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Farmers predict radio and Internet to survive”) for the full citation.

Building traditions in rural broadcasting

Thanks to J. Steven Smethers of Oklahoma State University for providing two reports of his recent research on the development of rural radio and television programming traditions in the U.S. They are:

  • “Community programs: surrogate radio stations for rural Midwestern communities.” This journal article describes an era when “stringer” reporters aired death notices, birth announcements, hospital admissions, club meetings and other local news.
  • “Unplugged: developing rural Midwestern television audiences without live network service, 1949-1952.” This study documents the development of television from a local perspective – “when television was not yet a household word and the task of providing a continuous program service was much more complicated than merely building a program lineup around network programming.”

Reference: Use title or author searches (above) for the full citations.

Congratulations to the National Agricultural Library

For adding the 4-millionth record on July 9 to the AGRICOLA (AGRICultural OnLine Access) database of citations to the agricultural literature. AGRICOLA is the largest bibliographic database for agriculture in the world and has been available for free public use via the World Wide Web since 1998 (

We search AGRICOLA to identify agricultural communications documents for ACDC, using an extensive protocol of subject search terms. It helps alert us to relevant documents from many sources.

Optimistic about e-commerce, but not using it yet.

A recent study among Ohio fruit and vegetable growers showed that 78 percent own or have access to computers and 71.4 percent use the Internet. However, researchers Stan Ernst and Mark Tucker found:

“.while these producers and distributors of fruits and vegetables generally demonstrate and claim optimism about the positive role of information technologies and E-Business strategies within their firms and overall industry, only a distinct minority are participating in the New Economy as either online buyers or sellers.”

Only 5.6 percent reported using computers “very often” for buying business inputs; 52.2 percent had never done so. Only 1.8 percent reported using computers “very often” for selling products over the Internet; 63.4 percent had never done so.

Reference: Use a title search (“Perceptions and adoption of information technologies”) or author search (Ernst or Tucker) for the full citation and details about electronic access.

long view of farmers’ involvement in the consumer culture.

Today’s discussions in the U.S. about corporate versus family farms and farming as a business or way of life carry a familiar ring in a recent historical analysis by David Blanke. The title of his book: Sowing the American dream: how consumer culture took root in the rural Midwest. Blanke suggests that “Midwestern farmers, between 1820 and 1900, consciously took advantage of the evolving modern consumer culture in order to better compete in the marketplace. At the same time, they protected what they believed to be vital notions of the community.” His analysis highlights innovative early efforts by farmers to bolster purchasing power through their organizations, such as the Grange. His research also examines marketers, such as Montgomery Ward and Company, that recognized special potentials in rural areas and creatively developed new mail order marketing systems as rural free delivery emerged.

Reference: Use a title search (“Sowing the American dream”) or author search (Blanke) for the full citation.

Getting more than table scraps.

Findings of a new global study by Euro RSCG Worldwide suggest that pets “are now being treated as surrogate children, lavished with premium foods and a wide array of extravagant playthings and accessories.” The white paper cites a survey by the American Animal Hospital Association showing that 84 percent of owners said they consider their pets their children and that 74 percent would be willing to go into debt to provide care for their pets. A cited survey by a pet supplies retailer revealed that “28 percent of pet owners spend more on Christmas gifts for their pets than for their spouses.” It seems that communicating about companion animals holds plenty of potential.

Reference: Use a title search (“Pets are masters”) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Whew. Lots of biotech communicating.

We notice that the ACDC collection now contains nearly 550 documents that involve communications aspects of biotechnology. In fact, we have added more than 70 documents so far in 2001. Many of these documents track public knowledge and attitudes about agriculture-related uses of biotechnology and genetic engineering. Some analyze media coverage and offer perspectives on the biotechnology debate. Some involve labeling considerations, publicity efforts of interest groups, education campaigns and other communications aspects of this complex topic. In total, they involve dozens of countries.

Reference: For a quick look at this growing body of literature in ACDC, use a subject search on the term <biotechnology> and scroll through the list of titles.

Conflicting interpretations (from the same survey). 

A recent article in Nature Biotechnology highlights a dilemma that faces communicators and others involved in agricultural biotechnology. The article describes two independent reports that “have, in the main, analyzed the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Chemical Use Survey.” The survey looked at herbicide use between 1995 and 1998.

  • One report, from Idaho, concluded that Roundup Ready soybeans “clearly require more herbicides than conventional soybeans” and can yield “up to 10% less.”
  • The other report, from the Netherlands, concluded that Roundup Ready soybean cultivation across the U.S. has led to “a modest reduction in herbicide-use.” It said that data available about the impacts on yield “are too small to be useful.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Jury out on environmental impact”) or author search (Heselmans) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

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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