Alternative Agriculture News
Volume 18, Number 4 (April 2000)
Henry A. Wallace Center for Agricultural & Environmental Policy at Winrock
9200 Edmonston Road, Suite 117
Greenbelt, MD 20770 USA
Phone: (301) 441-8777, Fax: (301) 220-0164
Web site: www.hawiaa.org
* * *
If You Are Interested in Sustainable Agriculture...
In addition to this monthly newsletter, the Henry A. Wallace Center for
Agricultural & Environmental Policy at Winrock International (formerly the
Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture) publishes the
American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, a quarterly, peer-reviewed
journal of research on alternative agriculture. It is a scientific forum
for disseminating technical, economic, and social research findings about
the character and requirements of alternative agriculture systems.
Fine-scale analysis of soil quality for various land uses and landforms in
central Honduras is the lead article in the current issue (Volume 14,
Number 4, 1999) of AJAA. Other articles cover breeding corn for adaptation
to two diverse intercropping companions; the impact of irrigated
agricultural practices on environmental quality and human health in the
West Bank; trying and buying locally grown produce at the workplace:
results of a marketing intervention; and evaluating consumer knowledge of
alternative agriculture commodities: the case of IPM produce.
For U.S. subscribers, one volume (four issues) costs US$24 for
individuals, US$44 for libraries, and US$12 for students; foreign rates are
also available. For more information, contact the Wallace Center, 9200
Edmonston Road, Suite 117, Greenbelt, MD 20770-1551 USA; (301) 441-8777;
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
New Biography Profiles the "Exceptional" Life of Henry A. Wallace
Chefs Try to Rid Their Menus of Genetically Modified Ingredients
A Future with Increased Nitrogen Looks Grim, Scientists Says
New Organic Standards Proposal is Tougher than Original
Worries Increase about Antibiotics in Animal Feed, Says Article
Wallace Center Documents Now on Sale at Reduced Prices
NEW BIOGRAPHY PROFILES THE "EXCEPTIONAL" LIFE OF HENRY A. WALLACE
The multi-faceted man who was Henry A. Wallace is profiled in a new
biography, American Dreamer: The Life and Times of Henry A. Wallace, which
portrays "Wallace the agriculturist of international renown, Wallace the
prolific author, Wallace the groundbreaking economist, and finally Wallace
the businessman whose company (eventually worth billions) paved the way for
a worldwide agricultural revolution." Written by former Iowa Senator John
C. Culver and former Des Moines Register reporter John Hyde, the 608-page
book explores the life of Wallace, who served as Secretary of Agriculture
and Vice President under Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1993, the Institute for
Alternative Agriculture became the Henry A. Wallace Institute for
Alternative Agriculture to honor Wallace's contributions to agriculture and
the support of the Institute by his daughter, Mrs. Jean Wallace Douglas.
American Dreamer details Wallace's pivotal role in the transformation of
corn farming by cross-breeding: "Agriculture, guided for centuries by
instinct and superstition, would henceforth be ruled by science . . . .The
breathtaking change wrought in midwestern cornfields eventually would sweep
across the world, encompassing not only corn but wheat and rice and
soybeans and chickens. Only a handful of men in 1924 understood what was
about to happen. Foremost among them was Henry A. Wallace. He was the
prophet and evangelist, the teacher and preacher of agricultural scientific
Two years later, Wallace created Pioneer Hi-Bred, "a company unlike any in
history: the first firm ever devoted to the development, production, and
sale of hybrid corn." To Wallace, "corn was life itself. Corn was the
bedrock of midwestern agriculture, and he knew how to improve it. He knew
how to make it stronger and more abundant," according to the book.
Wallace became Roosevelt's Secretary of Agriculture in 1933, and in 1936
convened a meeting of farm leaders to outline a new farm program. "The plan
would empower the Agriculture Department to enter into rental agreements
with farmers who would promise to replace certain soil-depleting
crops--such as corn, wheat, cotton, and tobacco--with 'green manure' such
as grass and legumes." That plan became the Soil Conservation and Domestic
Allotment Act of 1936 and was "a doubly sweet victory for Wallace. He had
rescued the farm relief program and returned soil conservation services to
the Agriculture Department [from the Interior Department] all at once."
During Wallace's tenure as Secretary of Agriculture, the Department became
"a powerful engine for progressive action," according to the book. "The
department had broken new ground on every front--economic, social,
scientific--and permanently changed the relationship between government and
agriculture, the nation's largest and most important enterprise." The new
initiatives he launched were "some of the New Deal's most innovative
programs: production controls and land-use planning, direct income
subsidies to farmers, erosion control and soil conservation programs, the
ever-normal granary, food stamp and school lunch programs, assistance to
sharecroppers and the rural poor, credit availability and crop insurance
After being elected Vice President in 1940, Wallace went to Mexico, where
he was "appalled" by the inefficient methods and low yields of corn
farmers. He urged the Rockefeller Foundation to take an interest in Mexican
agriculture, believing "that the all-important thing was to expand the
means of subsistence." Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug, who
developed high-yielding wheat, "would credit Wallace as the inspiration for
the 'green revolution.' So also did the Rockefeller Foundation."
American Dreamer: The Life and Times of Henry A. Wallace, published by
W.W. Norton & Company, is available at bookstores or from Internet
CHEFS TRY TO RID THEIR MENUS OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED INGREDIENTS
In many of the country's best restaurants, chefs are "ridding their
larders of biotech ingredients, quizzing suppliers about biotech content,
and banding together to publicly oppose the proliferation of genetically
modified food products," according to The Wall Street Journal (March 9,
2000). "The chefs are adding heat to the crusade against biotech food,
which has set off a firestorm among European consumers but isn't on a lot
of Americans' radar screens." Nearly 30 chefs are expected this month to
publicly renounce genetically modified food and demand labeling of products
containing genetically engineered ingredients, the article says. "But
becoming free of genetically modified food is a tall order for a
restaurant, which can have hundreds of ingredients bought from dozens of
suppliers," according to the story. "The changeover requires scrutinizing
product labels, interrogating suppliers, sundering longstanding
relationships with those who don't toe the unmodified line--and even
tinkering with cherished recipes." To avoid biotech products, "some chefs
switch to organic suppliers."
A FUTURE WITH INCREASED NITROGEN LOOKS GRIM, SCIENTIST SAYS
If current human activities continue along their recent trajectories, the
world's ecosystems will be adversely affected by practices such as land
clearing, use of pesticides, domination of global biogeochemical cycles,
and exploitation of natural resources, according to a University of
Minnesota scientist. Ecologist David Tilman "has tried to determine what
the world will look like in 50 years, assuming farmers continue to adopt
U.S. agricultural methods that depend heavily on nitrogen for high yields,"
according to a Knight-Ridder Business News story. "Oxygen-starved ‘dead
zones,' such as the existing one in the Gulf of Mexico, will become
increasingly prevalent, many plants will die off, while fewer--and less
desirable ones--will take over. The result will be less diverse and healthy
ecosystems for plant and animal life." Tilman projects that unless
agricultural methods change, the use of nitrogen will quadruple by 2050. He
discussed his projections at the annual meeting of the American Association
for the Advancement of Science in late February.
April 25-27, "Monitoring for the Millennium" will be held in Austin, TX;
contact National Water Quality Monitoring Council, 827 NW 63rd St. #103,
Oklahoma City, OK 73116; (405) 516-4972; on the Internet,
May 9, "Keep America Growing: Balancing Working Lands and Development"
will be held in Washington, DC; contact Anna Barrios, American Farmland
Trust, 1200 18th St. NW #800, Washington, DC 20036; (202) 331-7300 ext.
May 9-11, "Buffers: Commonsense Conservation for Urbanizing Landscapes"
will be held in Nebraska City, NE; contact National Arbor Day Foundation,
P.O. Box 81415, Lincoln, NE 68501; (888) 448-7337 or (402) 474-5655.
May 11-13, "The Biobased Economy of the Twenty-First Century: Agriculture
Expanding into Health, Energy, Chemicals, and Materials" will be held in
Orlando, FL; contact Bill Brown, National Agricultural Biotechnology
Council conference chair, (352) 392-1728; firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 16-18, 2nd National Extension Natural Resources Conference will be
held in Stateline, NV; contact Joni Rippee, University of California
Cooperative Extension, (510) 642-0095; email@example.com.
NEW ORGANIC STANDARDS PROPOSAL IS TOUGHER THAN ORIGINAL
The USDA last month announced a new proposal for national organic
standards that addresses the concerns of consumers and organic farmers,
making it much tougher than the original rule proposed in December 1997.
The new rules specifically prohibit "the use of genetic engineering, sewage
sludge, and irradiation in the production of food products labeled
'organic,'" according to the USDA. "The proposal also prohibits antibiotics
in organic livestock production and requires 100 percent organic feed for
organic livestock." The new proposal details the methods, practices, and
substances that can be used in producing and handling organic crops and
livestock, as well as processed products. "It establishes clear labeling
criteria and rules so that consumers know exactly what they are buying when
they purchase organic food," according to the USDA. For a product to be
labeled organic, it must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients.
"All labeling must be certified by private or state regulating
authorities," said Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.
More than 275,000 people flooded the USDA with comments on the initial
proposal, most of them overwhelmingly opposed to the proposal's inclusion
of genetic engineering, sewage sludge, and irradiation in the organic
process. Acknowledging that the agency responded to those comments,
Glickman also said, "The need for these standards rose out of the
exponential growth of organic agriculture. Whereas most other sectors of
agriculture are losing farmers, the number of organic farmers is increasing
by 12% per year." At the same time, Glickman announced a $5 million budget
request for organic research; a pilot organic crop insurance program; and a
marketing and production research project with the University of California
The Organic Trade Association was "cautiously optimistic" about the
proposal, but said organic producers, especially smaller ones, may face "a
few unexpected hurdles." Areas to receive "particular attention in OTA's
analysis include provisions concerning incidental additives used in
processed products, and the feasibility of tracking prohibited substances
in the non-organic ingredients used in multi-ingredient products."
The official public comment period on the proposal runs through June 14.
Fact sheets and other information about the rules are available on the
Internet at www.ams.usda.gov/nop.
WORRIES INCREASE ABOUT ANTIBIOTICS IN ANIMAL FEED, SAYS ARTICLE
Though experts have known that the overuse of antibiotics by humans has
reduced the ability of those drugs to cure infections, "there is mounting
evidence that the antibiotics widely used on farm animals are also
diminishing the power of important antibiotics to help people," according
to The Washington Post (March 17, 2000). "Giving animals antibiotics in
their feed can cause microbes in the livestock to become resistant to the
drugs. People can then become infected with the resistant bacteria by
eating or handling meat contaminated with the pathogens."
Most agricultural antibiotics are used when farmers feed livestock a
low-level diet of antibiotics to attack bacteria that might require the
animal's body to expend energy, allowing animals to grow more quickly and,
"from a producer's point of view, more efficiently," the article said. Some
researchers have found that "resistant forms of at least two common
bacteria--campylobacter and salmonella--are being passed from animals to
humans," according to the story.
WALLACE CENTER DOCUMENTS NOW ON SALE AT REDUCED PRICES
The Wallace Center, which is preparing to relocate to Arlington, Virginia,
is offering greatly reduced prices for in-stock publications. Documents in
the moving sale include American Journal of Alternative Agriculture,
Volumes 1-14 (1986-1999); Policy Studies Reports; Symposium Proceedings;
and back issues of Alternative Agriculture News (1983-2000). For an order
form with details on available publications and prices, contact the Wallace
Center, 9200 Edmonston Rd Ste 117, Greenbelt, MD 20770; (301) 441-8777;
"Truckpatch: A Farmer's Odyssey," 145 pages, is a collection of all 45
"Truckpatch" columns written for The Washington Post by the late Ward
Sinclair, a farmer and former member of the Wallace Institute Board of
Directors. The columns are about "the joys and sorrows of producing organic
food for body--and soul--at Flickerville Mountain Farm & Groundhog Ranch"
in Pennsylvania. The book is $14.95 plus $4 shipping and handling, from
American Botanist Booksellers, P.O. Box 532, Chillicothe, IL 61523; (309)
"CSA Farms in the United States 1999-2000," published by the USDA, is
available from CSA/CSREES, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Stop 2207,
Washington, DC 20250-2207; or on the Internet at
"Trends in Organic Tree Fruit Production in Washington State" is $4 from
David Granatstein, Washington State University, 1100 N. Western Ave.,
Wenatchee, WA 98801; (509) 663-8181 ext. 222; firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial--The First 15 Years" is
available from the Rodale Institute, (610) 683-1400; email@example.com.
"National Organic Certifiers Directory" is available on the Internet at
www.ofrf.org/about_organic/certifier.html, or from Organic Farming Research
Foundation, P.O. Box 440, Santa Cruz, CA 95061; (831) 426-6606;
"Pastured Poultry," a Heifer Project International case study sponsored by
the Southern Region USDA SARE, is available free from Appropriate
Technology Transfer for Rural Areas, 1- 800-346-9140; on the Internet at
13 New Fact Sheets on stewardship for farmland, sustainable agriculture,
and sustainable communities are available from the Land Stewardship
Project, 2200 4th St., White Bear Lake, MN 55110; (651) 653-0618; on the
Internet at www.landstewardshipproject.org.
"Small Dairy Resource Book" is $8 from Sustainable Agriculture
Publications, Hills Building, Box 0100, Room 12, University of Vermont,
Burlington, VT 05405-0082; (802) 656- 0484; firstname.lastname@example.org; on the
Internet at www.sare.org/san/htdocs/pubs/.
National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture seeks an executive director;
initial deadline is May 12; full job application is on the Internet at
www.SustainableAgriculture.net, or from Sheilah at (914) 744-8448.
Back issues of this newsletter are archived at the Sustainable Farming
Connection's Web site,
information on subscribing to the hardcopy version of Alternative
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