News Release
California Department of Food and Agriculture
Media Contact:
Steve Lyle, Office of Public Affairs, (916) 654-0462,
Release #02-037
Singled out as best government community relations program in the nation
SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and Fleishman-Hillard of Sacramento have been honored by the Public Relations Society of America for their Red Imported Fire Ant public education campaign. The coveted “Silver Anvil” award was presented at a ceremony in New York City. Award recipients are selected annually by a national professional review committee that evaluates research, planning, execution and impact of the campaign. The association named the Red Imported Fire Ant education project the best government community relations program for the year 2001

“This program significantly increased awareness about the impact of the Red Imported Fire Ant” said CDFA Secretary William (Bill) J. Lyons, Jr. “Our effort to eradicate this pest from California depends in large part on the awareness and involvement of the residents of the state. This recognition is an indicator we are on the right track. Congratulations are in order to CDFA’s Public Affairs department and to Fleishman-Hillard for a job well done.”

Red Imported Fire Ants, which are indigenous to South America, arrived in the United States in the 1920’s, presumably on a ship that docked in Mobile, Alabama. Since then, they have become established throughout the southeast. The ants are feared for their viciousness, swarming victims in coordinated attacks that can be fatal to people allergic to the ants’ venom.

The public awareness campaign began in 1998 after large Red Imported Fire Ant infestations were found in Orange County. Although infestations have since been discovered in a number of additional counties, there is encouraging progress toward eradication. In Orange County, for example, surveys indicate the majority of the mounds that have been treated for a year or more show no signs of Red Imported Fire Ant activity. The number of new finds is decreasing in each of the infested areas.

The public education campaign included:
· Creation of a statewide toll-free hotline for information and reporting of suspected Red Imported Fire Ant Mounds 1-888-4 FIREANT (1-888-434-7326);
· Information programs for outdoor workers, school children, gardeners, landscapers, lawn care workers, public park officials, and homeowner groups;
· Classroom projects about Red Imported Fire Ants;
· Advertisements in movie theaters;
· Billboards;
· Public service television and radio announcements;
· Public displays;
· Media events.

A research survey at the conclusion of the award winning 2001-2002 public education campaign indicated
· A more than 400% increase in the public’s understanding of how to prevent the spread of Red Imported Fire Ants;
· A nearly 350% increase in the number of Californians aware of the toll-free hotline;
· A 152% increase in the number of people indicating they know what action to take if stung by the Red Imported Fire Ants;
· A 290% increase in the number of survey respondents who knew what action to take if they see a suspect ant mound.

This is the second Silver Anvil for CDFA. The agency received the same honor for its 1995 “Don’t Pack a Pest” awareness program.

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California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Public Affairs
1220 N St., Ste. 214, Sacramento, CA 95814