ACDC News – Issue 04-12


Agricultural social scientists as interlopers  

“Economists within [national agricultural research systems] are often perceived as interlopers in an establishment traditionally ‘owned’ by technical scientists.” The comment caught our eye in a conference report about the role of social sciences within the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. CGIAR is an association of public and private sector donors that support a network of international agricultural research centers.

If some economists consider themselves interlopers in agricultural research systems, then this conference reflected communications researchers as absent altogether. Economics and sociology earned mentions in the report as social sciences. Communications scholarship did not, as such, despite many references to mainstream areas of communications research. Examples:

  • Understanding the perspectives of farmers regarding the management of natural resources and needs for research.
  • Fostering farmer participation in diagnosing development issues and experimenting with solutions to them.
  • Identifying the decision-making structures and processes into which information must be channeled if it is to influence research agendas.
  • Establishing and maintaining effective linkages within the agricultural research community and with the user, donor and other publics to which it relates.

Reference: Use a title search (Social science in the CGIAR) or author search (Collinson) for full citation.

Real disparities in rural versus urban access.  

A recent assessment in Bulgaria revealed “real disparities between rural and urban areas in terms of their access to both computing and connectivity.” This situation exists despite the fact that Bulgaria has the highest telephone density of any Eastern European country and “has been renowned for its technological innovative expertise, especially skilled software and computer engineers.”

The report explained how large areas of rural Bulgaria may have access to telephone lines, but the systems are likely to be poor and antiquated because they involve analogue equipment. It offered suggestions for improvement as the government privatizes the nation’s telecommunications system.

Reference: Use a title search (Bulgaria assessment) for the full citation. The report was posted on:

Business brokers – a key to rural e-commerce.  

It takes more than electronic technologies to develop electronic business networks, according to Jason Henderson in a report that we added recently to the ACDC collection. Also required:

  • A rural business culture that prizes cooperation
  • Funding support for development and sustained success
  • The presence of a broker

“Brokers bring owners together and help identify a common goal or objective for the network,” the author explained. “They can come from many sources: community colleges, extension services, nonprofit organizations and trade groups among others.”

Reference: Use a title search (Networking with e-commerce) or author search (Henderson) for the full citation. The report was posted on:

Passing of “a giant among agricultural communicators.”  

That is how a colleague described Roy Battles who died April 20 at the age of 92. The career of this native Ohio farm boy involved pioneering efforts in farm broadcasting and agricultural public relations. Among his many contributions and honors:

  • Participant in the first national conference of the National Association of Radio Farm Directors (1945). President of that organization (1950).
  • Inducted into the Farm Broadcaster Hall of Fame (1990)
  • One of the founders of the Agricultural Relations Council (1953). President of that organization (1970).
  • Longtime member of the judging panel of the Oscars in Agriculture program, which recognizes excellence in agricultural reporting.

Reference: Use title searches (“Ode to Roy Battles” and “Farm broadcasting: the first sixty years”) or a subject search (Battles) to identify information about him.

The teaspoon theory of farming.  

We recently added to the ACDC collection a classic piece by Steven Berntson about the family farmer’s dilemma in the Midwest USA. Writing for the Sunday Register (Des Moines, Iowa) in 1986, Berntson sketched this dilemma through the attitudes and operating styles of two farmers:

  • Peter Plugalong buys little new, minimizes expenses, stays debt-free, works hard, expects no guarantees from a year of effort beyond the experiences and pleasure of it, and substitutes labor for capital. “If I farmed just one acre of ground, I might farm it with a teaspoon, if I could.”
  • Fred Getahead farms big with late-model equipment to get the work done fast, whittles time and labor in any way he can, uses automated grain storage, studies the markets, operates from spreadsheets and has debts – big ones – that are hurting in a time of cost-price squeeze.

Beyond Berntson’s vivid description of these styles, he analyzed them in terms of the future of family farms

Reference: Use a title search (Hayseed and the BTO) or author search (Berntson) for full citation.

Parity – an enduringly strong message appeal.  

Nothing seems to have the staying power of the parity concept, as a message strategy to demonstrate that farmers should be getting higher prices for their products, that their purchasing power has slipped badly. Parity is the price farmers would receive if farm prices had increased at the same rate as expenses, using 1910-14 as a base period.

Many farmers watch parity ratios with interest. Some farm organizations publish them regularly.

Reference: For the current source of information concerning parity messages, check U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics at Within that site, use the search system to enter terms such as “2004 parity price.”

Still want to be a journalist?  

We close this issue of ACDC News with several more food, health and other assorted headlines cited in “So you want to be a journalist.”

“New study of obesity looks for larger test group”
“Hospitals are sued by 7 foot doctors”
“Cold wave linked to temperatures”
“Red tape holds up new bridges”
“Man struck by lightning faces battery charges”

Communicator activities approaching:

July 18-21, 2004
NRECA Marketing and Communication Excellence Conference in Columbus, Ohio USA. Sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association for electric cooperative marketers, communicators and member services staff.

July 23-25, 2004
Professional development program of Agricultural Relations Council (ARC) in Tampa, Florida. This gathering immediately precedes the Agricultural Communications Summit.

July 25-28, 2004
“Spring break this summer.” Agricultural Publications Summit involves members of the Livestock Publications Council (LPC), American Agricultural Editors’ Association (AAEA), American Business Media – AgriCouncil (ABM) and National Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT). Meeting in Tampa, Florida.

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:

June 2004


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