Sustainable Agriculture News Bulletin
Volume 2, Number 4
June 4, 1993
ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS CRITICAL OF PESTICIDE USE
A recent study by Public Voice determined that the volume of
pesticides used in agricultural production in the U.S. rose 125% from
1986 to 1991. A similar study by the World Wildlife Federation
showed that Sweden and Denmark had reduced pesticide use by 25-
50% as a result of federally mandated pesticide reduction programs.
The groups reportedly criticized U.S. producers for the amount of
pesticides and fertilizers they use and called on the Clinton
administration to show "bold leadership" in promoting the reduction
Source: Lisa Bransten, "U.S. Farmers Criticized," FINANCIAL TIMES,
May 25, 1993.
CONSUMERS TURNING TO ORGANIC ALTERNATIVES
With the threat of pesticides, salmonella, E. coli, listeriosis, alar and
antibiotics facing the nation's food supply, more and more consumers
are turning to organic produce as an alternative. Sales of organic
produce have quadrupled over the past decade and organic suppliers
hold a 3% share of the national produce market. Experts predict that
this figure will rise to 9% by 1995. "Now I've seen a broader
spectrum of interest. Most people, if they can get it, want it," said
organic farmer Atina Diffley of the Minnesota-based Gardens of
Eagan. More farmers are also turning to organic methods of
production. In California, for example, organic acreage has risen
850% since 1982. "I'm committed to the process of organic farming
because I really like feeding people nutritionally and healthfully,"
said Diffley. Still, many consumers say the price of organic foods will
have to drop significantly before they will change their buying
habits. The Organic Food Production Association of North America
(OFPNA) lists four reasons why organic foods are higher in price:
Traditional agriculture is more extensively subsidized by the federal
government; organic farming is more labor-intensive; the organic
produce industry is very small; and the conservation measures
utilized by organic farmers are more costly than those used in
conventional agriculture. Increasing awareness on the part of the
consumer combined with an increased availability and lower prices
are expected to catapult the organic produce market into the
mainstream within the next decade.
Source: Robin Bougie, "Chemically Free Organic Foods May Offer Safe
Alternative," FAMILY TIMES, May 1993.
FARMERS ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT RESTORED WETLANDS
Iowa farmer Lee Holmes said he worked for decades to remove
water, timber and brush from a 154 acre tract of land in order to
grow corn and soybeans. The land has recently been placed under
permanent easement by the federal Wetlands Reserve Program and
Holmes receives $800 an acre for keeping the land out of production.
He intends to sell the land to his son, Mike, a self-described "nature
freak." "In 10 years, it will look like trash, but that's what he wants,"
said Holmes. "He always wanted to plant a thousand trees a year and
I always wanted to kill a thousand." Doug Bahl of the Soil
Conservation Service said that restoring the wetlands will provide
many benefits such as the trapping of farm chemical run off and the
creation of game and non-game wildlife habitat. "Everybody has
been very enthusiastic about the program. It shows that society is
willing to share in the costs of restoring wetlands with farmers," said
Ann Robinson of the Izaak Walton League. "I think it's kind of a
thrill to look at," Holmes concluded. "I think it's going to be a good
thing for us."
Source: Dirk Steimel, "Some Farmers Jump at the Chance to Turn
Farmland Over to Wildlife," DES MOINES REGISTER, May 23, 1993.
MN EXTENSION CALLS CRP BIG BUSINESS
The Minnesota Extension Service recently called the federal
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) a big business worth over $100
million in payments to Minnesota farmers each year. The program
was implemented in 1986 as part of the 1985 farm bill. The purpose
of the CRP was to take highly erodible farmland out of production to
conserve soil and enhance water and wildlife resources. Some
researchers contend the program has no net benefit to the
government, which spends approximately $1.7 billion annually on
the CRP. With approximately 10% of Minnesota farmland on the CRP
rolls, Steve Taff, an agricultural economist with the Service, wonders
what will happen to the program when it expires in 1986. Some of
the choices facing farmers include returning the idled land to
production or continuing to leave it idle with no income or with
income through another CRP-type program. Taff says the expiration
of the CRP will not only affect agriculture, environmental and
community development policy, but it will also affect commodity
production, international trade patterns and federal budget
expenditures. Taff has written a publication entitled "The CRP in the
Upper Midwest: What Should We Do Next?" which is intended help
citizens make informed choices about the future of land retirement
Source: "CRP Has Meant Big Money to the Upper Midwest,"
MINNESOTA EXTENSION SERVICE NEWS/INFORMATION, May 21,
1993; "Wildlife Habitat Gains Could Reverse When CRP Ends,"
MINNESOTA EXTENSION SERVICE NEWS/INFORMATION, May 25,
1993; "Was the CRP A Good Public Investment?" MINNESOTA
EXTENSION SERVICE NEWS/INFORMATION, May 28, 1993.
GORBACHEV PLEDGES TO TAKE ON ENVIRONMENTAL
PROBLEMS IN FORMER USSR
Former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev said last
week that as head of the Green Cross, he will take on the
environmental problems facing the former Soviet republics. The
newly-created Green Cross, headquartered in The Hague,
Netherlands, will be the environmental version of the Red Cross.
Gorbachev, who first presented the idea for the group at last year's
Earth Summit, said the Chernobyl nuclear disaster had a powerful
influence on him in the formation of the Green Cross. "The Chernobyl
disaster influenced not only me but it also influenced the entire
world. I believe that for all of us it was a tremendous shock."
Source: "Gorbachev Aims to Tackle Ecology Nightmare in Ex-USSR,"
JOURNAL OF COMMERCE, May 27, 1993.
CRACKING THE CODEX: AN ANALYSIS OF WHO SETS
WORLD FOOD STANDARDS is a new report by the National Food
Alliance, of the U.K. The report exposes the intent of the Codex
Alimentarius, an unelected body that will have the ability to set
international food safety standards under the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade (GATT). It reports on the makeup of Codex, their
intentions and makes recommendations for reforming the body so
that it can act in the interest of the public. The report is available for
#10.00 from the National Food Alliance, 5-11 Worship Street, 3rd
Floor, London EC2A 2BH, U.K. Tel: (44-071) 628-7261.
Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) recently
published the second edition of their ORGANIC SUPPLIERS
DIRECTORY. The Directory lists over 1,000 businesses in North
America that provide organic supplies ranging from pest controls to
tools and equipment. Contacts for certification information and
educational materials are also listed. The Directory is available for
$15.00. For further information, contact OEFFA, P.O. Box 02447,
Columbus, OH 43202.
Produced by: Michelle Thom, Library and Information Coordinator,
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy , 1313 5th Street SE, Suite
303, Minneapolis, MN 55414. Telephone: (612) 379-5980 Fax:
(612) 379-5982 EMail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition to this twice-weekly news summary bulletin, the
Institute offers a variety of other information services on EcoNet for
farmers, educators, researchers and policymakers. These include:
Env.biotech: Weekly news summary bulletins on biotechnology;
Susag.library: Electronic "library" of documents pertaining to
sustainable agriculture; Susag.calendar: Calendar of events relating
to sustainable agriculture; Trade.news: Daily news summary
bulletins on international trade issues; Agri.farmbill: Participatory
conference on farm policy debates, including issues related to the
1995 Farm Bill