ACDC News – Issue 03-11

Educators, networkers, recruiters, trainers and salespeople. 

Public affairs specialists fill all those roles, and more, according to a recent article in FDA Consumer magazine. Author Linda Bren reported that 2002 marked “the 50th anniversary of this elite team of more than 40 professionals” working within the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They “reached more than 1 million people through 2,300 outreach and educational programs and 450 workshops, conferences, and meetings. All told, the team responded to over 10,000 inquiries in 2001.”

This article, added recently to the ACDC collection, described the history of public affairs specialists within FDA and cited examples to show their broadening range of responsibilities.

Reference: Use a title search (Public affairs specialists) or author search (Bren) for the full citation. The article was posted on:

Grassroots approach worked better. 

Two case histories reported earlier this year in Rural Cooperatives documented that point. A study by Randy Ziegenhorn examined results of two cooperative-like networks organized by Iowa hog farmers to improve their profitability. One cooperative, involving an Extension Service pork team, “was formed among those farmers described as ‘progressive enough to accept the networking concept’.” It played out into a “top-down, one-size-fits-all production model that didn’t fit the needs of the members.” Another network, formed by a veterinarian, developed a “bottom-up” plan to fit a group of farmers with similar production and financial needs.

The article briefly described results of the two network approaches.

Reference: Use a title search (Network difficulties) or author search (Ziegenhorn) for the full citation. Check with us at if you are interested in seeing the article, but have no local access to it.


Participation: part of a long-term shift. 

Bryant E. Kearl, University of Wisconsin, observed that in the 1960s “applied research in communications in agricultural development could confine itself to a single question: how can messages about improved farming practices be made more persuasive and brought more fully to the attention of the man on the land.” By the mid-1970s, he said, two important new questions had emerged:

  1. What channels of communication, administrative or otherwise, will best integrate the contributions of diverse public and private agencies in meeting agricultural development needs?
    2. What communications channels and devices will help rural people clarify their alternatives, organize their resources, and make those outside the community aware of their needs?

He foresaw an increasing “judgment that, to the maximum extent possible, the decisions that relate to development need to be decentralized and placed close to the people they affect.” More than a quarter century later, the extent to which that vision has or has not materialized remains a hot topic for debate, globally.

Reference: Use a title search (Communication for agricultural development) or author search (Kearl) for the full citation.

Room for improvement in food safety knowledge.

“We were very surprised to see that most people in Ireland do not know the correct temperature to operate the fridge at,” said the marketing and communications director of the Food Safety Promotion Board. A recent survey among more than 1,000 persons revealed that 78 percent did not know the correct temperature for food refrigeration. This finding, and others, illustrated “a clear need for greater information on food safety.”

Reference: Use a title search (New study reveals room) for the full citation. A news summary was posted at:

How you ask the biotech questions – it matters. 

Public opinion findings (2001-2002) from Europe illustrate how opinions on eating food produced using biotechnology can be affected by the way the question was phrased or asked. A review by KRC Research indicated “more neutral language leads to higher levels of support.” For example, among European consumers, “few support using [biotechnology] to genetically modify food.” However, “50 percent of the UK respondents say they would support using biotechnology for ‘food production’.”

Reference: Use a title search (EU views on agri-biotech) for the full citation. A summary of the review was posted on

Wings clipped on scientist critical of agri-biotech? 

The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reported earlier this year a “squabble” about whether a junior University of California-Berkeley professor “who has become a leading biotech industry critic can get a fair hearing in a tenure review.” The article involved Ignacio Chapela, “who in 1998 led a fight against a controversial research partnership between the biotech firm Novartis and Berkeley’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. Chapela…also co-wrote a journal article in 2001 in which he reported finding gene fragments from bioengineered corn in the genomes of native Mexican maize.”

Critics and supporters of the junior professor, on campus and off, were weighing in with their views. In late March, the tenure review had already gone twice as long as usual.

Reference: Use a title search (Critic of biotech corn fears) or author text (Abate) for the full citation. Archived March 23 on: This document adds to ACDC resources involving information control, scientific communication, ethical issues and related subjects. Use subject terms such as these to scout the current collection.

How farmers are spending their time with media. 

“How has the time spent with media changed, if at all, because of your use of the internet?” An Ag Media Research (AMR) radio study showed the following responses to that question among farmers interviewed early in 2003 at the Belt Wide Cotton Conference, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Convention and Commodity Classic:

  • 34.7% said less time with television, 58.8% said no change
  • 26.3% said less time with magazines, 64.6% said no change
  • 17.2% said less time with radio, 75.6% said no change
  • 32.8% said less time with direct mail

Reference: Use a title search (2003 AMR Intercept) for the full citation.

The rural “economy of affection.”

We noted that expression used in a recent journal article about persistence of the family farm. Researcher Jilly M. Ngwainmbi was analyzing this subject in Cameroon, but some of the points seem to resonate well beyond that nation.

“Agricultural policies driven by economic models which only assume farmers’ responsiveness to economic incentives, without considering other subjective values…tend to alienate farmers and are doomed to failure,” the author argued. Results of this case study indicated:
1. “There is a sacred component to agriculture,
2. there are rituals which provide for social bonding, and
3. there is a process of self-definition, self-determination, and self-actualization associated with food production.”

Reference: Use a title search (Persistence of the family farm) or author search (Ngwainmbi) for the full citation.

Professional activities approaching

July 27-30, 2003
“Cleveland Rocks!” Agricultural Publications Summit, a joint meeting of American Agricultural Editors’ Association (AAEA), Livestock Publications Council (LPC) and American Business Media: Agri-Council in Cleveland, Ohio.

More rural classifieds

“Wanted: A laborer and a boy; with grazing for two goats; both Protestants.”

“Lost: Lost near Tipperary, on or about Tuesday morning last, a large pig. Had no marks on his ears except a short tail, and a slight limp in one leg.”

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 unique collection. We welcome them in hard copy (sent to Ag Com Documentation Center, 69 Mumford Hall, 1301 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801) or electronic form (at

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