Sustainable Agriculture Week
Produced by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
May 4, 1994
Volume 3, Number 9
- EVERGLADES POLLUTION BILL ADOPTED
- CLINTON RELEASES PESTICIDE REFORM PROPOSAL
- SOME FARMERS MAY BRING ERODIBLE LAND INTO PRODUCTION
- ANOTHER BENLATE CASE GOES TO JURY
- BIOLOGICALS FARING WELL AGAINST POTATO BEETLE
- ORGANIC FARMER SAYS SHE IS NOT AMONG EQUALS
- OTHER NEWS BRIEFS
EVERGLADES POLLUTION BILL ADOPTED
A long-running dispute between environmental and sugar interests
has come to an end -- almost. Florida Governor Lawton Chiles signed
into law a bill that seeks to restore the Florida Everglades. Known as
the Everglades Forever Act, the bill will set up a fund to build huge
marshes designed to filter out polluted run-off seeping into the
Everglades. Lake Okeechobee alone will require 40,000 acres of
filtration marsh at an estimated cost of $700 million. The bill also
sets a short-term goal of 50 parts per billion of phosphorous in water
and it delays setting a long-term goal for at least 10 years.
Environmental groups reacted with some skepticism. "From a
political perspective, one of my fears is that given the profile they
have given to this, there will be a strong impulse on the part of
public actors to think they have solved the Everglades problem,
when in fact what they have done is to settle a lawsuit," said Jim
Webb of the Wilderness Society. Webb was referring to the series of
court battles between the federal government and the sugar industry
over Everglades policy for the past several years.
Environmental groups have a bigger target on their agenda. They
hope to hold a statewide referendum which will ask Florida citizens
to approve a one penny a pound tax on sugar producers. The funds
will go for environmental restoration of the Everglades. Sugar
companies have argued the tax will put them out of business.
The Clinton administration said it was pleased with the law but
acknowledged it is just the beginning. "I think it is a tremendous
step forward. It is a historic step toward systematic restoration of
the Everglades," said Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.
Source: John H. Cushman, Jr., "Florida Adopts Bill on Everglades
Pollution," NEW YORK TIMES, May 4, 1994.
CLINTON RELEASES PESTICIDE REFORM PROPOSAL
Last week, the Clinton administration released its proposal for
reforming two of the nation's laws that govern pesticide residues in
food. The proposal would allow a certain amount of pesticide
residues in food products if "a reasonable certainty of no harm"
exists. The proposal covers both raw and processed foods.
The Clinton plan would scrap the Delaney Clause of the 1958 Food,
Drug and Cosmetic Act. The clause said that no known carcinogens
would be allowed in processed foods. The proposal also amends the
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
Carol Browner of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
outlined the four main features of the bill:
% Comprehensive studies on pesticide levels in foods commonly
consumed by children;
% A health and science-based standard for all pesticides used in food
% A deadline for banning pesticides that cannot be proven safe; and
% Helping farmers reduce pesticide use by adopting methods that
require less chemical use, such as Integrated Pest Management
Neither industry nor public interest groups like the Clinton plan.
Industry groups favor the Lehman-Bliley bill, which would eliminate
cancer-causing substances that pose more than a negligible risk but
takes into consideration the economic impacts farmers might face if a
pesticide must be removed from the market. Steve Ziller of the
Grocery Manufacturers said the proposal contains some "fatal flaws."
"It does not call for the use of the best science we have available,"
said Timothy Willard of the National Food Processors Association.
Consumer and environmental groups support a bill by California
Representative Henry Waxman. The Waxman bill would essentially
prohibit the use of any probable carcinogen. Of the Clinton plan, Erik
Olson, environmental attorney, said, "It doesn't go far enough."
Browner defended the Clinton proposal, calling it the biggest food
safety breakthrough in 20 years. She said the bill takes into
consideration other exposures to pesticides such as home use,
drinking water and buildings. "You're looking at all risks, not just
cancer. You'll be looking at reproductive risks, you'll be looking at
effects on the brain, effects on the immune system. You'll be looking
at all of the effects, not just some of the effects," she said.
Source: John H. Cushman, Jr., "Clinton Proposes Revising Pesticide
Regulations," NEW YORK TIMES, April 27, 1994; Robert Greene,
"Pesticide Bill," AP, April 23, 1994; "Clinton Pesticide Bill Would Alter
Calculation of Food Cancer Risks," INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY, April
27, 1994; "Pesticide Regulations to Stress Human Safety," AGRI VIEW
April 28, 1994; "Clinton Pesticide Plan Pleases No One," GANNETT
NEWS SERVICE, April 28, 1994; "U.S. Proposing New Pesticide Rules,"
Farming Today, UPI, April 27, 1994.
SOME FARMERS MAY BRING ERODIBLE LAND INTO PRODUCTION
Agriculture experts say some farmers are expected to bring more
highly-erodible land back into production this year as a result of the
zero set-aside requirement for corn set by the USDA. Last year's
flooding has left corn stocks drastically low. Secretary of Agriculture
Mike Espy made the decision to require no land to be set aside for
corn production out of a desire to replenish depleted stocks.
While some farmers are expected to bring highly erodible land back
into production, federal conservation mandates, which require
farmers to have conservation plans in place by January 1, 1995, will
have some impact on whether or not farmers bring vulnerable land
back into production. "Often, set-aside land is marginal or highly
erodible, so farmers are more likely to keep it out of production,"
said Stan Wilson of the Illinois Agricultural Stabilization and
Conservation Service (ASCS). "We won't know for sure until sign up
is over," he added.
A recent article in the INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY, says that
concern about soil erosion has farmers turning to a new generation of
farming implements and equipment. The leader in conservation
tillage equipment is Deere & Company, the article says, which
introduced a new line of equipment in 1990 intended to stem soil
erosion. A Deere specialist said the 750 model No-Till Drill is
designed to cut a smaller, but deeper, furrow in soil. This will allow
for greater planting depth without harming cover, said Deere's
conservation tillage specialist Randy Renze. Deere said this particular
drill is the best selling drill in the nation, controlling more than 50%
of the market share.
Lastly, a letter to the editor in a recent edition of AGWEEK says that
the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which compensates farmers
for keeping highly erodible land out of production, saves taxpayers
money. The letter writer states that an employee of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service calculated CRP land in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska,
Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota saved taxpayers $16
million last year because CRP enrollees do not get as much in
Source: "More Erodible Land Expected in Production," IOWA FARMER
TODAY, April 23, 1994; Matt Krantz, "Soil Erosion Worries Give Rise to
New Class of Farm Tools," INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY, April 28,
1994; Paul H. Myerchin, "CRP Saves Taxpayers Money," AGWEEK,
April 28, 1994.
ANOTHER BENLATE CASE GOES TO JURY
Another lawsuit filed against the chemical company DuPont's Benlate
DF product is about to go to jury. Attorneys finished closing
arguments yesterday in a $32.7 million lawsuit filed by five Florida
specialty crop growers, who allege the Benlate product stunted plant
growth or killed plants. An additional 40 cases are lined up behind
this one in Dade County Circuit Court and at least 250 more are
pending nationwide. Attorney for the growers Phillip Sheehe called
Benlate a "deadly cocktail that destroyed the crops of my clients."
DuPont attorneys continue to insist Benlate is not the culprit.
Source: "Jury to Hear Florida Benlate Case," UPI, May 3, 1994.
BIOLOGICALS FARING WELL AGAINST POTATO BEETLE
A USDA scientist says tests show biologicals fared well in the war
against the Colorado potato beetle. K. Duane Biever, an entomologist
with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, said he used a
stinkbug, a bacterium and a fungus to kill the potato beetles, which
cost producers an estimated $100 million a year in chemicals. In
comparisons, areas where the biological agents were used yielded as
many potatoes as areas where conventional chemicals were used.
The bacterium used was Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which carries a
toxin into the beetles' stomach, and the fungus was Beauveria
nassiana, which penetrates the beetles' skin and feeds off it. "As far
as we know, this is the first time this trio of natural biocontrol agents
has been tested in potato leaves," said Biever.
Source: Margaret Scherf, "Farm Scene," AP, May 3, 1994.
ORGANIC FARMER SAYS SHE IS NOT AMONG EQUALS
Catherine Mack decided she wanted to farm organically 14 years ago.
Today, she runs the only organic farm in Britain approved by the
Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Her farm, which brings in about
#250,000 a year, has 14 breeds of sheep, six types of cattle, four
kinds of pigs and organic wheat. Mack said her success was an uphill
struggle due to the domination of British agriculture by men. "I went
to a meeting (of the National Farmers Union) one night about muck-
spreading -- a major problem because of the pollution it can cause. I
arrived and was told the cookery demonstration for wives was
upstairs," she said. Other women in agriculture expressed the same
feelings. They also said they hoped the appointment of Gillian
Shepherd to the Ministry of Agriculture, one of only two female
appointees in Prime Minister John Major's cabinet, will help their
situation. Mack said the biggest problem is the tradition of
inheritance, which tends to favor passing farms along to sons or
other males in the family. When her daughter was asked if she
would be taking over her mother's farm one day, she replied, "I want
to be an engineer."
Source: Alison Maitland, "They Plough a Lonely Furrow," FINANCIAL
TIMES, April 27, 1994.
OTHER NEWS BRIEFS
The Environmental Defense Fund released a report this week that
concluded the decline of biological diversity in the nation's lakes and
rivers has been severely impacted by non-point source pollution,
such as that from agricultural production. The report is entitled the
BIG KILL and examines 10 cases where novel solutions could be
developed for environmental problems.
At a recent news conference, environmental groups told Congress it
must act quickly to protect wetlands, improve water quality and
prevent floods like the one that occurred in the Midwest last year.
The 1993 flood "put a microscope on the toxic chemicals and polluted
runoff that threaten this great resource," said Bill Reddig of the
Sierra Club about the Mississippi River.
Farmers and ranches who use public lands say they are cautiously
optimistic about a note from Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt in
which he states he is ready to hear their concerns. Wade Moser of
the North Dakota Stockmen's Association said he is pleased, but many
parts of Babbitt's grazing reform proposal remain unresolved. Moser
said grazing fees should be tied to the local private rate and not set
arbitrarily at a national level. He also said Babbitt's proposed local
advisory boards are worrisome. "They're saying that the local
rancher (on the board) must be a local resident, but the
environmentalists on the board could be from New York or Los
Angeles or anywhere," he said.
Source: "Waterways Clean Up Could Impact Agriculture," Farming
Today, UPI, May 3, 1994; "Congress Urged to Protect Wetlands, Clean
Rivers," REUTER, May 3, 1994; Juan Miguel Pedraza, "Ranchers Fear
Consequences," AGWEEK, April 28, 1994.
DEBT-FOR-NATURE SWAPS TO PROMOTE NATURAL RESOURCE
CONSERVATION is a publication of the Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO). The book outlines the debt crisis in the
developing world, the resulting exploitation of natural resources and
debt-for-nature swaps as a solution to the problem. Many
environmental groups in the North have participated in debt-for-
nature swaps where tracts of land are purchased in exchange for
paying off a developing country's debt. Specific case studies and
potential swaps are also examined. Debt-for-nature swaps have
been criticized by many nongovernmental organizations for wresting
control out of the hands of local citizens, among other reasons. The
FAO publication concludes the swaps provide a good potential
solution for solving debt and natural resource degradation problems.
The book (F32408) is available for $10.00 from UNIPUB, 4611-F
Assembly Drive, Lanham, MD 20706, Tel: (800) 274-4888, Fax:
GREAT LAKES WASHINGTON WEEK, May 21-25, 1994, Washington,
D.C. FFI, contact: Sierra Club Great Lakes Program, 214 North Henry,
Suite 203, Madison, WI 53703, Tel: (608) 257-4994.
TOWARD EARTH COMMUNITY: ECOLOGY, NATIVE WISDOM AND
SPIRITUALITY, May 22-27, 1994, Killarney, Ireland. FFI, contact:
International Transpersonal Association, 20 Sunnyside, Suite A257,
Mill Valley, CA 94941.
SOIL REMINERALIZATION AND SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE, May
23-24, 1994, Washington, D.C. FFI, contact: David Yarrow, 1227
Dorset Street, South Burlington, VT 05403, Tel: (802) 865-1218.
PRAIRIE FESTIVAL 1994: THE PATTERN WHICH CONNECTS, May 27-
29, 1994, Salina, KS. FFI, contact: The Land Institute, 2440 East
Water Well Road, Salina, KS 67401.
LEGUMES IN CROPPING SYSTEMS OF THE TROPICS AND SUBTROPICS,
May 30-June 24, 1994, Stuttgart, Germany. FFI, contact: Course
Coordinator, Centre for Agriculture in the Tropics and Subtropics,
University of Hohenheim, 70593 Stuttgart, Germany, Tel: (49) 0711
459-3742, Fax: (49) 0711 459-3315.
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