ACDC News – Issue 04-03

U.S. public lukewarm toward farming and agriculture?  

Only 52 percent of U.S. adults hold a “very” (17 percent) or “somewhat” (35 percent) positive view of farming and agriculture, according to an August 2003 Gallup Poll. Most others (27 percent) in the national sample said they felt “neutral.”

Reference: On the “Database Search” page of this ACDC web site, use a title search (Gallup Poll, August 2003) for the full citation.

On obesity and the strategy of trial lawyers.  

A growing public debate about obesity in Americans prompted Pierce Hollingsworth to comment in a recent issue of Food Technology magazine. He described four “time-tested elements” of a strategy that trial lawyers might be expected to use. Public communicating is central to them:

  • Create a villain
  • Establish the economic cost
  • Promote any supporting medical research
  • Advance the notion of industry malice and deception

Reference: Use a title search (Power, policy, politics and fat) or author search (Hollingsworth) for the full citation.

Obesity statistics are seriously flawed  

According to the Center for Consumer Freedom, a Washington-based organization supported by the food industry, restaurants and interested consumers. A CCF news release that we added recently to the ACDC collection identified several problems involving commonly cited statistics about obesity of Americans. Among them:

  • Data indicating that 61 percent of Americans are overweight or obese reflect a change of definition in 1998 by the U.S. government. The redefinition re-classified 39 million Americans as “overweight.”
  • Statistics attributing 300,000 U.S. deaths annually to excess weight are based on inconclusive research. “…the data linking overweight and death…are limited, fragmented and often ambiguous.”

Reference: Use a title search (Obesity statistics) for the full citation. The release was posted online at:

On reaching Iowa producers of apples and cider.  

A 2002 mail survey by Andrew Zehr examined the communications needs and behaviors of apple and cider producers in Iowa. Results indicated that producers placed the greatest amount of trust in interpersonal information sources. “They trust institutional information sources slightly less while generally reporting a low level of trust in the media for food safety information.”

The study also measured the levels of exposure and attention to mass media messages about food safety within the context of apple growing and cider production. A third dimension tested whether the use of mass media resulted in a third-person effect on producers’ views about the general public’s level of worry concerning food safety issues.

Reference: Use a title search (Communication needs and behaviors) or author search (Zehr) for the full citation. The paper was posted online at: October 2003.

Isolation has little impact on Internet subscription  

According to results of an analysis of the demand for Internet service in rural and remote communities of Western Australia. Researchers Gary Madden and Grant Noble-Neal used survey data to estimate econometric subscription and use models.

They found that the need to communicate for work and educational purposes largely determined Internet subscription. Isolation had little impact, except the local isolation of farms from nearest towns.

Reference: Use a title search (Internet use in rural) or author search (Madden) for the full citation.

“What these people need is radio.”  

A study reported recently in Technology and Culture traced the rise in popularity of radio in rural America during the 1920s and the portrayal of farmers in the general press and farm press during that time. Randall Patnode analyzed editorial and advertising copy in six urban daily newspapers and six major farm periodicals between 1922 and 1926.

Contrary to the common assumption that radio helped bridge the rural-urban gap, findings of this analysis suggested that radio:

  • Exaggerated the shortcomings of farm life
  • Supported the increasingly urban and modern way of life
  • Isolated and marginalized rural dwellers
  • Added to the distinctions between urban and rural life
  • May have accelerated the decline of the family farm

“Although hearing sounds over the radio in the early 1920s was astounding,” Patnode concluded, “the real revolution in radio was in the way it amplified existing social and cultural differences.” He observed that the “utopian proclamations attached to radio and other new technologies have less to do with the future than they do with our sense of past failures.”

Reference: Use a title search (What these people need) or author search (Patnode) for the full citation.

Practices that farmers must forget  

Kevin Morgan and Jonathan Murdoch recently examined how knowledge is distributed within two kinds of economic networks:

  • Conventional food chain. It relies on intensive inputs, so tends to distribute knowledge toward input suppliers.
  • Organic food chain. It distributes knowledge back toward the farm as farmers must relocalize their understandings of the production process.

The findings, reported in Geoforum, led authors to conclude that farmers who wish to operate in the organic food chain “must forget many of the practices so characteristic of the conventional chain in order to (re)learn how to farm in an ecologically benign fashion … In the organic chain, we argue, farmers can once again become ‘knowing agents’.”

Reference: Use a title search (Organic vs. conventional agriculture) or author search (Morgan) for the full citation.

“Wal-Mart Factor” in the food chain  

A recent article in Amber Waves (published by the Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture) featured food marketing trends driven by consumer demand and aided by information technologies. A section on “The Wal-Mart Factor” described radio-frequency tracking systems, case-ready meats, animal welfare guidelines and other consumer-oriented marketing tools being introduced by the food industry.

Reference: Use a title search (From supply push) or author search (Martinez) for the full citation. The article was posted online at:

Communicator activities approaching:

March 5-6, 2004
“AG.COMM.Inc.: the business of communication.” Professional development event for members of National Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT). Hosted by the University of Arkansas ACT chapter in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

March 12-19, 2004
World Congress of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists in South Africa. The Congress starts in the north (Mabalingwe Nature Reserve) and ends south in Cape Town.

April 14-16, 2004
“Make Your Mark.” 2004 Agri-Marketing Conference and Trade Show in Kansas City, Missouri.

A communicator guideline

The wise young owl sat in an oak.
The more he saw the less he spoke.
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why aren’t we like that wise young bird?

Best regards and good searching.  

Please pass along your reactions, suggestions 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. Send

  • hard copies to:
    Ag Com Documentation Center
    510 LIAC Library
    1101 S. Goodwin Avenue
    Urbana, IL 61801
  • or electronic copies to:

February 2004

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