The Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, which is attempting to get
sustainable policies included in the upcoming 1995 Farm Bill, is up
and running. In preparation for next year's debate, the campaign is
circulating a sign-on letter for interested parties. The purpose of the
letter is to demonstrate broad-based support for sustainable
agriculture to policymakers. Signatories are working for the
following goals: reforming federal farm programs to improve income
for family farmers; land stewardship and environmental protection;
redirecting research and extension toward sustainable practices;
promoting access to farm ownership for minority and beginning
farmers; strengthening rural communities through local marketing
and processing; and providing a safe and secure food supply. For a
copy of the letter, contact the National Campaign Office, 32 North
Church Street, Goshen, NY 10924, Tel: (914) 294-0633.
A House Committee on Agriculture panel held a hearing on the 1995
Farm Bill last month. Farm organizations, environmental groups and
agriculture economists were asked to give testimony on the shape of
the 1995 Farm Bill. Many addressed environmental concerns and
the potential consequences if the current direction of agriculture
continues. "If we continue to design federal farm programs to
reward consolidation in agriculture by assisting well-established
large farms in acquiring control of the land, they will bid moderate-
sized and beginning farmers out of the land market," said Ferd
Hoefner of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. He outlined a
proposed Environmental Reserve program, which would replace the
current Acreage Reduction Program. Under the environmental
reserve, farmers would not be required to idle land in order to
receive deficiency payments; instead, they would be eligible for
payments based on production reductions and environmental
stewardship. "Targeting farm program benefits, creating an
environmental reserve and improving the Integrated Farm
Management" are considered top priorities, Hoefner said.
Wayne Boutwell of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives said
additional capital is required to get farmers to reduce their costs and
improve efficiency; however, credit is often hard to secure in rural
areas. "We need to look for ways to minimize cost and allow U.S.
agriculture to remain viable and competitive," he said. The National
Corn Growers Association said it supports an extended Conservation
Reserve Program (CRP) that focuses on the most sensitive land. The
American Farm Bureau Federation said it supported the general
direction of current laws but wanted more flexibility for acreage
bases, "creative environmental incentives" and to maintain farm
Meanwhile, Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute says the 1995
Farm Bill is shaping up to be a disaster for both farmers and the
environment. He said we can expect the upcoming debate on the
farm bill to be a repeat of the past where environmentalists and
farm groups fight for land set-aside schemes and trade protections to
shield farmers from international competition. As a result, he said,
we can also expect diminished export possibilities and the plowing
under of the rainforests in Asia in order to produce the food needed
to feed the growing population.
Source: CAMPAIGN FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE SIGN-ON
LETTER, August 1994; "Groups Prioritize Farm Bill Topics," H.A.W.
INSTITUTE FOR ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE NEWSLETTER, August
1994; Gordon S. Carlson, "Aid to Large Farms, Environment Issues
Are Focus of Early Farm Bill Hearing," FEEDSTUFFS, July 18, 1994;
"Fresh-Picked Farm Facts," GANNETT NEWS SERVICE, July 22, 1994.
DEBATE OVER FATE OF CRP CONTINUES
The debate continues over the fate of 36 million acres of land
enrolled in the CRP -- a program which essentially pays farmers to
keep highly erodible land out of production -- once contracts begin to
expire next year. Theresa Gullo of the Congressional Budget Office
(CBO) said that over the next five years CRP spending will decline
from $1.8 billion a year to $375 million. She said her office has no
basis to assume CRP spending will continue. She also noted that the
USDA has not completed a study that would determine whether the
program should be extended for 10 years to protect the most
environmentally sensitive land. The study, due out December 1993,
has not yet been completed. Ken Cook of the Environmental Working
group called the CRP "a cornerstone of federal farm programs and the
farm economy." He said as much land as possible needs to be offered
continued protection in the 1995 farm bill. The two testified
recently before a House Agriculture subcommittee.
Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN) recently introduced legislation that
will extend the CRP by 10 years. Peterson is currently seeking co-
sponsorship to his bill. An aide said a hearing will be held sometime
in August or September in Minnesota, South Dakota or North Dakota
to provide proponents and opponents of CRP an opportunity to air
According to a recent survey by Iowa State University, nearly three
out of four Iowa farmers support extending CRP. The survey said
73% of respondents thought CRP should continue. In addition, 37%
percent thought the program should be extended at current payment
rates and 36% thought only the most sensitive land should be kept
out of production. Fifty-six percent of the respondents had land
currently enrolled in the CRP. About 1/3 of those enrollees said they
would return their land to production once the program expired. "I
would really like to see the program continue," said Iowa farmer
Warren Miller. "We've got some steep land and I'd hate to see it go
back to corn and beans."
Iowa Extension specialist Bill Lotz predicts that most of Iowa's 2.2
million CRP acres will go back into production. "Those acres will
either be cows or crops," he said. If farmers want to return the land
to production, Lotz cautioned that they plan ahead and scout out
sensitive land currently in production.
All that being said, the USDA is reportedly considering extending CRP. USDA
Deputy Secretary Richard Rominger said, "Probably one that will get
a lot of consideration is the short-term extension of the first
contracts that expire in 1995." The first contracts will expire on
October 1, 1995.
Source: Gordon S. Carlson, "Lawmakers Consider Option of Simply
Ending CRP as Contracts Expire," FEEDSTUFFS, August 8, 1994; Gary
Gunderson, "Peterson Advocates CRP Extension," AGRI NEWS, August
14, 1994; "ISU Poll: Farmers Want CRP Extended," THE NEIGHBOR,
July 29, 1994; Gene Lucht, "CRP Participants Hope for CPR," IOWA
FARMER TODAY, July 23, 1994; Joyce Vogelman, "'Cows or Crops' For
Expiring CRP Acres," IOWA FARMER TODAY, July 23, 1994; "USDA
Considering Extending CRP-Rominger," REUTER, July 13, 1994.
USDA PATS BACK FOR SOIL CONSERVATION EFFORTS
Giving itself a pat on the back last month, the USDA praised its
efforts aimed at soil conservation. In its National Resources
Inventory, the latest survey of land use practices, the department
said less soil is being washed away and the loss of wetlands is
decreasing. The inventory examines trends and conditions from
1982 to 1992. "We're seeing the results of strong conservation
efforts by the nation's farmers and ranchers over the last 10 years,"
said Paul Johnson, head of the Soil Conservation Service (SCS). Major
findings include: annual erosion was down about 1 billion tons of
soil; CRP enrollment accounts for much of the 9% decline in cropland;
and the amount of wetlands lost to agriculture was cut to 50,000
acres a year. Among the more worrisome trends is the rate at which
urban sprawl and development is taking over agricultural land. The
inventory revealed that development has taken over 14 million of
the nation's 1.9 billion acres of cropland.
In June, Johnson revealed the results of the USDA's 1993 status
review. Among the findings were:
% almost 1.2 million farmers have developed conservation plans on
more than 140 million acres of highly erodible cropland;
% erosion on the land is expected to decrease from 17.5 tons an acre
per year to 6 tons an acre when plans are fully implemented at the
end of 1994; and
% more than one billion tons of soil will be saved once plans are fully
Johnson said progress was also being made on the natural resource
conservation front, including: improved crop residue management;
wetland enhancement and restoration; floodplain management;
movement toward an ecosystem based approach to natural resource
conservation; and the introduction of new plant cultivars aimed at
stemming erosion. "I am optimistic about the future, given the
technology available and the growing commitment of farmers and
others in our society to the well-being of our land and water," said
Source: Robert Greene, "Land Uses," AP, July 14, 1994; "USDA Soil
Conservation Service Chief Praises Conservation Efforts," USDA NEWS
RELEASES, June 30, 1994.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION SARE, ACE CALL FOR PREPROPOSALS
Last month, the North Central Regional Sustainable Agriculture
Research and Education (SARE) Program issued a call for
preproposals for funding sustainable agriculture projects in 1995
under SARE and Agriculture in Concert with the Environment (ACE).
The administrative council has identified the following as priorities
for SARE: value-added regional food systems; sustainable livestock
systems; integrated food, environmental and agricultural policy
initiatives; alternative weed management systems; farmer
based/initiated networks; and systems approaches to manure
management for plants, animals and the environment. ACE priorities
include: protection of environmentally sensitive areas such as
riparian, wetlands, surface and groundwater and terrestrial avian or
aquatic habitat. A call for proposals will occur this fall for projects
addressing quality of life and structure of agriculture issues.
The council said it encourages preproposals with inter-disciplinary
links and the involvement of the private and public sector. Twenty-
five copies of the preproposals must be received at the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln by September 16, 1994. Final proposals will be
required from project coordinators by December 9, 1994. Examples
of successful proposals from 1994 are available upon written
request. For more information, write Steven S. Waller, Regional
Coordinator, North Central Region SARE, 13-A Activities Building,
University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583 or fax: (402) 472-0280.
Source: "Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program
North Central 1995 Call for Preproposals," July 15, 1994.
NEW TILLING METHODS HASTEN DEMISE OF OLD PLOW
A recent article in the NEW YORK TIMES, concludes that new tilling
methods are hastening the demise of the plow and traditional
plowing methods. A change in a federal law in 1985 goes into effect
this year, which requires farmers to take steps to stem soil erosion or
risk losing subsidies under the federal farm programs. Farmers are
taking to new methods that require no or low tillage as such methods
save time and money -- as much as $15 an acre, according to some
experts. Proponents are quick to point out that no-till methods
require the heavy use of herbicide but only at first. But over time,
they say, less herbicides will be needed to kill weeds.
The article said that manufacturing of the traditional moldboard
plow has declined from its peak of 650,000 in 1926 to 2,600 in 1990.
The reason, experts say, is an increased understanding of how
plowing methods have contributed to soil erosion. Used by very few
farmers today, traditional methods completely subvert about a foot
of topsoil, making it more vulnerable to wind and water runoff. Most
farmers still use some form of plowing, whether it be chisel plowing,
whereby a portion of the ground is turned over, or disking, whereby
crop and plant residue is cut up and incorporated into the topsoil. "It
was a radical idea 20 years ago," said Dale Montgomery of
conservation tillage methods. "But farmers are seeing that if you
work with nature, you don't need to fight it."
New machinery like the no-till drill, allows farmers to plant in fields
covered with crop stubble. Frank Lessiter of Wisconsin, publisher of
the No-Till Farmer newsletter, likened it to the Native Americans
who used to "grow corn by spoking a hole in the ground with a stick,
out in a fish for fertilizer and then throw in a seed. And that's not
a heck of a lot different than the way we do things with no-till," he
Stewart Melvin, an agriculture engineer at Iowa State University,
asserts that the change toward low tillage techniques was prompted
by society. "People driving down the road wanted to see clean, black
fields. Nobody wanted their neighbors to think they were bad
farmers. But we've found that nature leaves the soil in pretty good
shape for planting, as long as we don't abuse it." While nostalgic
about the old plow, Dale Montgomery said, "The bottom line is that
we've got to save the soil."
Source: Dirk Johnson, "New Way of Tilling Speeds the Plow's Demise,"
NEW YORK TIMES, July 16, 1994.
NEW WAYS TO MARKET CROPS BECOMING MORE IMPORTANT FOR
Farmers who process and market their own foods are growing in
number in Minnesota. Take Gwen Smith, for instance, who runs
Smith Farm with her husband Bruce. Smith uses the fruits of the
farms -- tomatoes and peppers in particular -- to make her
homemade salsas that are scheduled for distribution in Twin Cities
stores this fall. Another example is Pete Jager who dries the shiitake
mushrooms grown by himself and his neighbors and turns them into
soups. Roger Karstens raises lamb, which become lamb-wild rice
patties. "People are beginning to see opportunities that could run to
$10 to $20 million," said Duaine Flanders of the Agriculture
Utilization and Research Institute (AURI) of Minnesota.
Instead of raising just commodities, many farmers are seeking new
sources of income out of their desire to remain on the land. "They
see other growers having success with value-added products or with
cooperative efforts with other growers and they start studying their
situation for marketable ideas," said Kevin Edberg of the Minnesota
Department of Agriculture. Edberg and Flanders are part of a group
seeking new markets for farmers. Edberg said he believes more
farmers will turn in this direction. He added the department is
planning a seminar this winter to explore value-added and direct
A Le Center, Minnesota company, which specializes in processing
organically grown soybeans, is considering expansion. "Last year was
profitable. This year is very profitable. We're finally making
money," said Mike Vincent, who runs Agronico. What makes
Agronico different is the way it extracts the oil from the beans. The
company is waiting on a patent for a natural extraction process to
remove the oils rather than relying on the traditional method of
injecting a solvent into soybean meal. Vincent said environmental
concerns promoted Agronico to go this way. The drawback, he said,
is that he must search a wide area for crops that are grown
Doug Gunnick has been growing soybeans organically since 1985 in
southern Minnesota. He said the hassles of conventional farming and
his concern for the environment forced him to go organic. "When we
treat only the symptoms -- insects and weeds -- we are having other
effects on the soil. We continue to degrade the environment," he
said. He said the incentive to produce organically is the satisfaction
of harvesting a quality crop without harming the environment and
the $4-5 a bushel he receives for his beans.
Source: Ann Burckhardt, "Savvy Farmers Find New Ways to Sell
Crops With Success," MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE, August 10, 1994;
Ann burckhardt, "Gwen's Gourmet," Minneapolis Star Tribune, August
10, 1994; Katie Grev, "Company Growing With Organic Market," THE
LAND, July 15, 1994.
The Land Stewardship Project (LSP) recently released its study of
four sustainable farms in Minnesota. AN AGRICULTURE THAT
MAKES SENSE: PROFITABILITY OF FOUR SUSTAINABLE FARMS IN
MINNESOTA examines four farming families who utilize sustainable
practices and concludes that these farms are more profitable than
their conventional counterparts. All of the families involved in the
study take a holistic, diversified approach to farming. Hence, their
operations are more economically viable than conventional farms.
"The possibilities suggested by these case studies are promising for
creating an agriculture that makes sense -- makes sense for farm
families, for rural communities and for the land," the study
concludes. The report is available for $5.00 (MN residents add 6.5%
sales tax) from LSP, 14758 Ostlund Trail North, Marine-on-St. Croix,
MN 55047, Tel: (612) 433-2770.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
WRCC-67 SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE MEETING FOR THE WESTERN
REGION, August 18-20, 1994, Cheyenne, WY. FFI, contact: David
Granatstein, Washington State University, Tel: (509) 663-8181, ext.
ENVIRONMENT AND QUALITY OF LIFE IN CENTRAL EUROPE:
PROBLEMS OF TRANSITION, August 22-26, 1994, Prague Czech
Republic. FFI, contact: International Geographic Union Regional
Conference, Albertov 6, 128 43 Prague 1, Czech Republic, Tel: (42 2)
203608, Fax: (42 2) 205878, email: email@example.com.
INTENSIVE ROTATION GRAZING OF GESTATING SOWS AND GILTS,
August 23, 1994, Barrett, MN. FFI, contact: Byron Bartz, Tel: (612)
528-2301 or the Minnesota Sustainable Farming Association, Tel:
GRAZIERS CIRCLE, August 30, 1994, Maynard, MN. FFI, contact:
Koenen Dairy, Tel: (612) 367-2891 or Minnesota Sustainable
Farming Association , Tel: (612) 269-2105.
NATIONAL GROWTH MANAGEMENT LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE,
September/October 1994, St. Paul, MN. FFI, contact: Land
Stewardship Project, 14758 Ostlund Trail North, Marine on St. Croix,
MN 55047, Tel: (612) 433-2770.
ALLELOPATHY IN SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY AND
ENVIRONMENT, September 6-8, 1994, Rajasthan, India. FFI, contact:
Dr. Sjamsher S. Narwal, Department of Agronomy, CCS Haryana
Agriculture University, Hisar 125 004, Haryana, India, Tel: (91)
1662-73721, ext. 4268, Fax: (91) 1662-73552.
WORK AND HEALTH IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY, September 8-10,
1994, Toronto, Ontario. FFI, contact: New Solutions, 148 Wright
Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M6R 1L2 Canada, Tel: (416) 588-4148, Fax:
(612) 588-4148, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
OUTDOOR HOG PRODUCTION FIELD DAY, September 10, 1994, Clara
City, MN. FFI, contact: Jim and LeeAnn VanDer Pol, Tel: (612) 847-
3432, Minnesota Sustainable Farming Association, Tel: (612) 269-
MARYLAND ORGANIC FOOD AND FARMING ASSOCIATION FIELD DAY,
September 17, 1994, Accokeek, MD. FFI, contact: Skip Kaufman,
Accokeek Foundation Farm and Colonial Garden, 3400 Bryan Point
Road, Accokeek, MD, Tel: (301) 283-2113.
NEW JERSEY THIRD ORGANIC COUNTY FAIR, September 18, 1994,
Pennington, NJ. FFI, contact: Northeast Organic Farming Association,
Tel: (609) 737-6848.
SUSTAINABILITY OF RANGE LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS IN
THE WEST, September 18-21, 1994. FFI, contact: Jack Riesselman,
525 Leon Johnson, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717,
Tel: (406) 994-5149.
Produced by: Michelle Thom, Institute for Agriculture and Trade
Policy, 1313 5th Street SE Suite 303, Minneapolis, MN 55414, Tel:
(612) 379-5980 Fax: (612) 379-5982 EMail: email@example.com or
firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to this news bulletin, the
Institute publishes a variety of news bulletins on agriculture, the
environment and international trade. All bulletins may be
reproduced and distributed freely without prior permission as long
as proper attribution is included. A copy of any publication in which
an IATP bulletin is cited would be appreciated.