Posted by: admin on June 9, 2021

Posted in: Newsletter

Message from the President

I hope everyone is doing well. Our family is almost all done with the vaccine series and looking forward to resuming travels soon.

If you have not heard, we are holding the 2021 Agricultural Relations Council (ARC) Annual Conference in Richmond, Va., Oct. 26-28. I look forward to seeing you then – in person, of course! More information and registration can be found here:

Please welcome George Harper as the newest ARC board member. George is a member of the United Soybean Board (USB) Communications and Marketing Team. His past experience includes two years at Osborn Barr, where he led several USB campaigns, including sustainability, technology and plant breeding innovation, while also supporting the Marketplace Action Team. George previously managed farmer relations and legislative affairs initiatives for Dairy Farmers of America, a national milk marketing cooperative, for eight years. He also spent four years in Washington, D.C., as an aide to members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska and is originally from Texas. Again, please welcome George.

Congratulations to Jessica Wesson, a University of Arkansas agricultural communications graduate student, who received the Agricultural Relations Council 2021 ARC/C.O.nxt Scholarship. Thanks to Den Gardner for leading the scholarship application review team in selecting a great candidate.


Stay well and do good work,

John Blue

ARC President 2019-2021


Join us in Richmond, Virginia, for the
2021 annual conference

Who’s ready for an in-person conference? If you answered, “yes,” make plans to attend the 2021 Agricultural Relations Council (ARC) Annual Meeting, Oct. 26-28, in Richmond, Va., at the Courtyard by Marriott.

With a theme of “Virginia is for Lovers (of Ag PR),” conference organizers are confident you’ll “love” the speaker lineup, educational opportunities, colleague recognition, tour stops and camaraderie that’s second to none with ARC.

To help you make travel arrangements, here’s the tentative program:

October 26
3:00 p.m. Board of Directors Meeting
5:30 p.m. Reception Hosted by Padilla in its Richmond office

October 27

8:00 a.m.            Welcome and Introductions
8:15 a.m.            Virginia Ag Perspectives Panel
9:15 a.m.            Editor Panel
10:30 a.m.          Break
10:45 a.m.          Educational Session on Grammar
Noon                   Agricultural Public Relations Hall of Fame Lunch
1:30 p.m.            *Panel Discussion: “Beneficial Swamp Dwellers: Fighting the Good Public Relations                                                              Fight for Agriculture and Food in Washington, D.C.”
3:00 p.m.            AgriManners
3:30 p.m.            Educational Session on Corporate Social Responsibility OR Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity
4:45 p.m.            ARC Business Meeting and Champagne Toast to the Hall of Fame
6:00 p.m.            Reception
6:30 p.m.            Golden ARC Awards Banquet
7:15 p.m.            Golden ARC Awards Ceremony

*There is a dynamic and productive community of ag and food communicators in Washington, D.C., which may not be well understood by commercial ag and food industries. Yet, export market development organizations, associations and advocacy organizations operating “inside the Beltway” are making a positive, bottom-line difference for farmers, ranchers and dairy producers and, in turn, for the commercial companies who serve the rural economy.

October 28

7:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. – Tours

Please note that ARC changed the format of this year’s annual meeting and scheduled the educational sessions and Golden ARC Awards banquet on the same day. “Those staying for the Thursday tour will not be disappointed, as we are looking to tour many places unique to Virginia agriculture, including a peanut farm,” said ARC Executive Director Kristy Mach.

Click here to register.


C.O.nxt hosts ARC intern
Madison Stoneburner

This year’s Agricultural Relations Council summer intern is Madison Stoneburner. She is spending her ARC internship working remotely with C.O.nxt, a full-service marketing and communications agency that serves the food and agriculture industries. Gardner & Gardner Communications provides the funding for this scholarship.

During her time working with C.O.nxt, Stoneburner will expand her knowledge of public relations (PR) and the agriculture industry while working on content development, media relations, social media and influencer relations. She was first offered the ARC internship at C.O.nxt for the summer of 2020. Unfortunately, the internship was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stoneburner is a spring 2021 graduate of the Supper Honors College at Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBAU), West Palm Beach, Fla., where she earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations with a minor in political science. During her time in college, Stoneburner studied under her adviser and mentor Wes Jamison, who encouraged her to pursue a PR career within the agriculture industry.

During her sophomore year of college, Stoneburner had the opportunity to meet with C.O.nxt founder Lyle Orwig, which solidified her decision to pursue a career in agriculture and instilled in her a goal to one day work for C.O.nxt. During her junior year, she had the opportunity to work on a campaign for a group of cattle ranchers at the Arizona-Mexico border. The campaign focused on bringing attention to illegal immigration, which affects the operations and lives of ranchers living at the border.

Prior to her graduation, Stoneburner served as the president of PBAU’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and completed six public relations internships across various industries. Stoneburner had the honor of being recognized as the Outstanding Graduate for the Department of Public Relations at PBAU. She is looking forward to furthering her skills gained from coursework and past internships during her time at C.O.nxt.

ARC/C.O.nxt Scholarship goes to University of Arkansas student

Jessica Wesson, a University of Arkansas agricultural communications graduate student, received the Agricultural Relations Council 2021 ARC/C.O.nxt Scholarship. In May 2020, Wesson earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education, communication and technology (AECT) from the University of Arkansas.

In addition to her graduate school studies, Wesson works as a graduate assistant in the AECT department. She assists with teaching ag communications and leadership courses, grades assignments and manages the department’s communications, including social media accounts, monthly newsletter and website.

Wesson’s academic adviser, Casandra Cox, described Wesson as a strong student who strives daily to achieve academic and professional excellence. “She seeks opportunities beyond assigned classwork to grow and strengthen her skills. Jessica’s competencies in media relations, journalism, visual communications, marketing communications, electronic media and public relations in the agriculture industry support her fit for this scholarship,” said Cox.

Last summer, Wesson served as the AAEA (American Agricultural Editors’ Association) The Ag Communicators Network editorial intern. This internship involved working for three major agricultural publications – Farm Progress, DTN Progressive Farmer and Successful Farming. Her duties included interviewing individuals and writing stories for websites and print publications, and taking photos.

During her junior and senior years of college, Wesson worked as coordinator of the University of Arkansas AECT Department Experiential Learning Lab. In this role, she supervised student employees, designed department signage and promotional materials, produced a weekly bulletin, prepared a monthly newsletter and managed the county fairgrounds reservation system.

As an ag communicator, Wesson strives to educate consumers and those working within agriculture. Concerned about the divisions within agriculture, she wants agriculturists to address internal conflicts and provide a united front – to better the whole industry. “There is an issue with producers not accepting other types of agriculture,” Wesson wrote. “If agriculture is divided internally, then consumers won’t know who to trust. My goal is to help producers realize that all kinds of agriculture have a place at the table.”

Lyle E. Orwig, founder of Charleston|Orwig, now rebranded as C.O.nxt, generously funds this annual $1,500 scholarship through the endowment he set up with the ARC Foundation.


Donate to the
2021 AMS/ARC Silent Auction

Each year, the Ag Media Summit (AMS) partners with the Agricultural Relations Council (ARC) on the silent auction at AMS to raise funds for student programming and activities at AMS, and student scholarships through ARC.

How can you help? (We thought you’d never ask.) Donate an item (or money) to the auction. Auction organizers suggest gift baskets featuring local fare, candy, coffee and/or adult beverages, handmade jewelry, designer purses, artwork and sports memorabilia.

If time is moving too quickly for you and you just don’t have time to get out there and find an auction item, ARC staff would be happy to do the shopping for you. Just let us know how much you would like to contribute and we will take care of the rest!

To donate, please fill out the donor form: We look forward to receiving your incredible donations. Thank you!

If you have questions, please contact Kyle Wieskus, ARC membership director, at: or 952-758-2367.


Paying tribute to Steve Drake

By Den Gardner, Agricultural Relations Council senior consultant

Steve Drake was a friend of mine. When I heard from his wife Barb that Steve had died on May 21, which was only about four months after he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrous (IPF), it startled me and saddened me at the same time. He was a titan in agriculture association work, with a special emphasis in ag communications. We all send our sympathies to Steve’s wife Barb and their children.

In 2015, Steve was inducted into the Agricultural Public Relations Hall of Fame. The Agricultural Relations Council (ARC) began recognizing ag PR leaders about 10 years ago. There was little doubt Steve would be on that list in our early years. He was synonymous with excellence in ag PR and ag communications overall. He will be sorely missed in the ag communications business.

Because I’m a musician (using that term loosely), a Burt Bacharach set of lyrics jumped into my small brain. It’s because these words will always come to mind when I think of Steve and our 30-plus-year relationship as business colleagues and friends:

Keep smiling, keep shining,
Knowing you can always count on me
For sure
That’s what friends are for.

Steve and I would easily admit we didn’t agree on everything. We didn’t agree on political views all the time. His fiscal austerity sometimes even exceeded mine (yes, I know for some of you that’s hard to believe). When we worked on several strategic plans together, oftentimes we’d disagree on tactics that were effective and useful to that particular organization.

But at the end of the day, I could always count on Steve to come through – because that’s what friends are for.

Continue reading here.


Webinar content provides helpful PR tips

The Agricultural Relations Council (ARC) offered two outstanding webinars earlier this year. The first – Your work is great, but is your contest entry? – featured Daren Williams, senior director, global communications at Almond Board of California, Tina Charpentier, senior vice president, environmental sciences and agriculture at Padilla, and Bob Giblin, owner, R. Giblin Marketing & Communications LLC. Click here to view this webinar.

The second ARC webinar – Great e-mail marketing in 2021 and beyond – featured Jessica Best, vice president of data-driven marketing at Barkley. She shared e-mail marketing strategies to nurture customer relationships and help drive more sales. Click here to view this webinar.


2020 Golden ARC Award Winner: Media Relations: Print Media Relations –
Non-Agricultural (Consumer) Audiences

United Soybean Board: The House That Soy Built

What do you do when you don’t have a product to sell, but instead, you have the last piece of the puzzle other companies need? U.S. soybean oil has emerged as an unexpected one-size-fits-all solution to the “green pressure” chemical product companies are facing. “The House That Soy Built: Soy-Based Products Are on the Leading Edge of Sustainable Housing” press release was one tactic in an overall campaign to position soybean oil as the solution to the difficult situation facing many industrial manufacturers: the need to replace harmful chemicals in their products to meet the demands of today’s consumers. To reach sustainability managers at large manufacturing companies, the press release was distributed on a business wire and pitched to leading publications in this sector, which resulted in a big splash in a small niche arena.


Utilizing petroleum or formaldehyde in rubber, coatings and plywood products in the 1980s was seen as a resourceful cost-cutting measure. However, research has shown these resources not only deplete fossil fuels but also are confirmed carcinogens. Soybean oil can be used as a replacement for formaldehyde and petroleum oils used in many home improvement products, including plywood, insulation, roofing products and wood stains. Soybeans are sustainably produced and environmentally friendly. If industrial users of oil switch to soy, that would create new and steady domestic and international markets for U.S. soybeans.

With decades of investments in key research in partnership with some of the best academic institutions in the country and brands such as Goodyear, Skechers and Rust-Oleum, the United Soybean Board (USB) is positioned to take its proven successes to other industrial manufacturers that U.S. soy is just what they need. What could be better to illustrate this than tell the story of the “House That Soy Built” through successful uses in home products?

The target audience for this tactic was sustainability managers at industrial companies looking to improve their sustainability, many of which were actively receiving internal and external pressure to “find a solution.” We planned distribution for early fall to reach this audience as they were developing annual company sustainability reports and planning for future sustainability initiatives and new solutions.

Read more here.


2020 Golden ARC Award Winner:
Public Relations

International Beef Cattle Academy
Student Recruitment Campaign

Please briefly describe your winning project.

International Beef Cattle Academy (IBCA) offers a one-year, comprehensive online certificate program to beef industry professionals through Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Filament worked closely with program coordinators to raise industry awareness of the Academy and, ultimately, drive applications for the class of 2019-2020.

How did you create public relations for this project?

The buyer’s journey is a complicated, twisting path with many Google searches, abandoned carts and content consumed along the way. With 47 percent of buyers viewing three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep, it can be challenging to link a media relations tactic at the top of the funnel to an immediate sale.

But Filament doesn’t play by the rules. One press release for IBCA directly resulted in $210,000 in revenue. How? Filament executed a highly targeted public relations campaign aimed to drive applications for IBCA’s online certificate program. With the foundation set through a website home page refresh, testimonial gathering and a supporting social media campaign, we couldn’t go wrong.

What were the results?

IBCA received 55 applications. At $21,000 cost per student, potential client return was $1.15 million. That’s the kind of math we like to see. The press release alone accounted for 10 applications. To extend the excitement, we followed the press release with individualized pitches to top publications, which resulted in six additional story leads.


2020 Golden ARC Award Winner:
Media Events and News Conferences

National Honey Board – Test Kitchen Innovation Series with Chef Jenny Dorsey

To reach our target audience of “Natural Balancers” (Millennial and Gen X consumers striving for a balanced and flavorful diet), in 2019, NHB invited media from Hearst Publications and popular website PureWow to a Test Kitchen Innovation Session hosted by partner Chef Jenny Dorsey. Chef Jenny crafted a menu showcasing honey as the star ingredient for all-day breakfast and brunch occasions at a two-stop test kitchen tour in New York City.

More than 25 top-tier editors from publications, including Good Housekeeping, Prevention, Dr. Oz Online and PureWow, enjoyed an in-person honey varietal tasting and cooking demonstration of Chef Jenny’s made-with-honey recipes, which featured different honey varietals.

As a result, the Test Kitchen Innovation Sessions and subsequent media pitching resulted in 153 pieces of coverage, garnering more than 395 million top-tier impressions – almost four times the original goal of 105 million impressions – with 100 percent positive sentiment toward honey. The media coverage included Chef Jenny’s recipes, along with original recipes created by top food editors from outlets, including Men’s Health, PureWow and Food Network Magazine. In the end, beyond surpassing our program goal metrics, we successfully reached and inspired our target audience to think of honey beyond tea and toast, bringing new inspirations and excitement to the delicious ingredient.


2020 Golden ARC Award Winner: Annual Reports: Non-financial Annual Reports

World of Corn’s World of Good Makes a World of Difference for NCGA

Gone are the days when all you had to do to run a successful corn growing operation was put more grain in the bin. In today’s corn industry, as it is throughout our global economy, sustainability and corporate social responsibility have an enormous impact on the bottom line. This is especially true in agriculture, as sustainability isn’t merely a public relations buzzword but a necessity in preserving the soil and environment for continued, generational growth.

But if you think you’d surprise a corn farmer with this information, think again. The corn industry has taken an incredibly proactive approach to responsible farming, steadily implementing sustainable management practices in all areas of operations, including soil health, water management, precision agriculture, pollinator health and more. So, it was fitting that this World of Corn report not only provide an update on the direct economic status of the industry but also inform stakeholders of the impact that their sustainability efforts are having – so they can see that they’re doing a World of Good.


Founded in 1957, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) represents nearly 40,000 dues-paying corn farmers nationwide and the interests of more than 300,000 growers who contribute through corn checkoff programs in their states. This annual report shows the contribution from American corn growers each year to feed and fuel our country.

Each year, NCGA publishes the World of Corn report to highlight the previous year’s corn crop statistics. In addition, a companion piece is created to focus on a specific benefit or area of corn production. In 2019, the focus landed on sustainable solutions that corn growers employ to contribute to a World of Good.

Continue reading here.

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