Last week, the House Agriculture Committee approved the Minor
Crop Protection Act. The purpose of the act is to ease registration
requirements for producers of so-called minor crops such as fruits
and vegetables. Passage of the act will speed up pesticide
registration processes for producers and waive certain requirements.
In the past, producers have voluntarily cancelled registrations due to
high costs. Environmental groups are asking that use reduction
clauses be added to the bill, which is expected to go to the floor next
Pesticide reform is reportedly going nowhere in Congress. This
summer, a House Agriculture subcommittee passed a bill with the
support of the chemical industry and some farmers. Whether to
change the zero-tolerance provision for pesticide residues in
processed foods, otherwise known as the Delaney Clause, remains a
sticking point. Both sides of the debate were resigned to not
completing pesticide reform before the adjournment of the 103rd
Congress. Four proposals are still in the works.
Source: "U.S. Agriculture Committee Approves Pesticide Bill,"
REUTER, September 30, 1994; "Pesticide Reform Going Nowhere," THE
NEIGHBOR, September 23, 1994.
EXTENDED FOR ONE YEAR, DEBATE OVER CRP CONTINUES
Earlier this month, soon-to-be former Secretary of Agriculture Mike
Espy announced that he would extend for an additional year
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts set to expire in 1995.
The decision will allow farmers to remain in the program for an
additional year while awaiting anticipated changes to the program
under the 1995 farm bill. The decision involves about 2 million of a
total 36.5 million acres enrolled in the CRP. While acknowledging
that the program did need some changes, Espy said, "We plan to
work closely with Congress to continue CRP in order to achieve our
conservation, wildlife and agricultural objectives." He praised the
program for saving 700 million tons of soil annually, but also said he
believed payments were too high in some areas where the land is not
farmed, thereby forcing up nearby farm rental rates. The decision
was applauded by the National Farmers Union and Pheasants
Forever. An article in the journal FEEDSTUFFS said the extension has
only resulted in delaying a decision about what to do with acreage
enrolled in the program.
In mid-September, Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) announced that he
would introduce a bill to extend CRP contracts for 10 years. "The
value of CRP is undeniable. The benefits to society in improved
water and soil quality and wildlife habitat are real and measurable,"
Conrad said. The bill's co-sponsor is Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD), who
sits on the House-Senate CRP Working Group with Conrad. A similar
version of the bill is pending in the House.
Minnesota farmers have signed up to plant trees on 2,400 acres of
CRP land. The Oklee Tree project, funded by the Legislative
Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCMR) will produce hybrid
wood in an effort to attract a fuel processing plant in the next 10-12
years, when the first harvest is ready. Participants in the project can
apply for a five-year extension on their CRP contracts and must
agree to grow trees for 30 years.
Another option, according to Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for
Rural Affairs, would be to convert CRP acreage to a permanent
conservation program. Hassebrook writes that next year's farm bill
should include provisions that allow CRP land to be used for
sustainable economic purposes while protecting the environment
over the long term. Hassebrook proposes the following for CRP land:
replace CRP with a permanent retirement program for highly
erodible land; provide incentives and technical assistance for
sustainable production on CRP land; create more flexible base acreage
policies that would allow farmers to sell a crop acreage base to other
farmers who need more base while keeping CRP land in conservation;
and help beginning farmers obtain CRP land from retiring farmers in
exchange for easements that require them to implement whole farm
resource protection plans.
Yet another option, according to the North Dakota State University
(NDSU), is to use CRP land for grazing when contracts expire.
Researchers have been studying the effects of haying and grazing on
CRP land. The NDSU animal and range sciences departments
currently have four sites where research is being done on livestock
performance and vegetative response using a three-pasture, two-
grazing rotation at some sites and season-long grazing at other sites.
Performance is better at some sites, but researchers say years of
data are needed to reach any definitive conclusions.
A recent survey shows that South Dakota farmers, pleased with CRP,
would return their enrolled land to crop production if the program is
not renewed. Conducted last year, the survey by the South Dakota
State University economics department showed that 52% of CRP acres
would be converted to cropland, 29% would remain as grassland and
the future is unknown for 19%. In addition to the influence of
economics, respondents also said that public policy and opinion
would play a great role in their decision.
Finally, a recent study by a University of Minnesota economist
concluded that CRP hurts rural communities. Willis Peterson studied
the economic well-being of 100 farming countries in the U.S.,
concentrating in the Great Plains. Taking land out of production, he
concluded, actually hurt more than it helped due to the increased
efficiency of agricultural production. As each acre produced more
and more food, acreage reduction programs couldn't take land out of
production fast enough to prevent a decrease in prices, Peterson said.
At the same time, Peterson said greater efficiency and fewer acres
being farmed resulted in less economic activity, especially in areas
with a high degree of CRP-enrolled land. "As our standard of living
increased, family farms had to become larger to maintain or increase
profits. The acreage reduction programs accelerated this process."
Peterson admits that eliminating acreage reduction programs like
CRP will not provide the answer to the problems facing out rural
communities. His study, he says, merely demonstrates that the
equation for rural community economic vitality is simply more
complicated. The study does not mention the role higher commodity
prices might play in rural communities.
Source: "CRP Granted Reprieve," AGWEEK, August 29, 1994; Gordon S.
Carlson, "Espy Extends Expiring CRP Contracts," FEEDSTUFFS, August
29, 1994; "USDA Agrees to One-Year CRP Contract Extensions," AGRI
NEWS, September 1, 1994; "National Farmers Union Leads Coalition
on Conservation Program," NATIONAL FARMERS UNION PRESS
RELEASE, August 29, 1994; Gene Lucht, "Pheasant Group Applauds
CRP Contract Extension," IOWA FARMER TODAY, September 10, 1994;
"Espy, Farmers Backing Continuation of CRP," AGRI NEWS, September
8, 1994; Gordon S. Carlson, "Extending CRP Contracts A Year Stalls
Ultimate Decision on Program," FEEDSTUFFS, September 19, 1994;
Juan Miguel Pedraza, "Extending CRP Another 10 Years," AGWEEK,
September 12, 1994; Ann Bailey, "Sprouting Trees," AGWEEK,
September 5, 1994; Chuck Hassebrook, "CRP Should Be Converted to
Permanent Resource Conservation Program," THE NEIGHBOR,'
September 9, 1994; "Grazing Seen as a Good Option," AGWEEK,
September 26, 1994; "Survey: South Dakota Farmers Like CRP,"
AGWEEK, September 26, 1994; "CRP Hurts Rural Economies," AGWEEK,
September 12, 1994; "Idling Cropland Hurts Rural Economies,"
MINNESOTA EXTENSION SERVICE, August 1994.
CONCENTRATION POSES NEW THREATS, PROBLEMS FOR FAMILY
Contract livestock producers are growing in numbers across the
country, hoping to expand their operations and lobbying to loosen
anti-corporate farming clauses in state laws. Yet prices remain weak
and many land grant universities continue to say there is long-term
profitability in hog production contracts. A recent AGWEEK article
said the problem is many farmers do not understand the implications
of vertical integration and the growing concentration of the livestock
industry in the hands of a few large corporations.
Contract arrangements work fine -- if you happen to own Tyson
Foods, for example. Farmers who contract with these companies
make the capital investments while doing all the hard work and end
up making less than minimum wage. "They (the companies) get
away with it because we've let them," said one unidentified woman
"It's truly unbelievable that a handful of men could gather in a
warehouse one night and decide 'We're going to own the chicken
business,' agree to deal only with each other and cook up all kinds of
ways to cheat farmers. And now they're in the White House."
"Reality is growers are locked into economic serfdom by companies
that control every aspect of inputs, management, production and
marketing," the article says. Companies pay growers as little as a
nickel a head for chickens while stuffing them with cheap feed all
the way to the processing plant. Stuffed with cheap feed, they fetch
more money for the company on the processing plant scales. In
addition, medical and supply bills are typically padded, to the benefit
of the companies. "You can't depend on these big companies.
Producers should be owning their own hatcheries, finding their own
markets," the woman said.
The National Contract Poultry Growers Association agrees. The
organization is seeking to improve the social and economic well-
being of contract producers. John Morrison, founder of the
association, says growers are afraid to go up against a company when
they know they have been cheated. "There's widespread fear among
producers of economic repercussions, like a sudden contract
termination, if you don't follow the company line," said Morrison. As
Neil Hamilton of the Drake University Agricultural Law Center put it,
"We are rapidly converting farmers into low-wage employees on
their own land."
In Minnesota, contract hog producers are finding local communities
are not so accepting of their entrepreneurial pursuits. Near
Northfield, Minnesota hundreds of huge hog farrowing operations
have surfaced. "This is hog heaven," says Ceasar Larson of MPI
Farms. "The potential for hogs in Minnesota is unlimited." Farmer
Darlene Hand, who farms next to one of Holden Farms' operations,
takes the opposite point-of-view. "It's scary," she says.
Minnesota is currently fourth in the nation in hog production,
generating $2.6 billion a year. Last spring, the state legislature
changed the state's corporate farming act to allow an unlimited
number of farmers to work together in livestock operations. State
agriculture officials are pleased with the change and hope to open up
the law even further next time around. However, neighbors are fed
up with the smell and the prospect of groundwater pollution as a
result of manure seepage and spills. Reassurances by the Minnesota
Pollution Control Agency that every major hog operation must install
manure basins lined with clay and develop plans to deal with spills
do not seem to be working. Rice County passed a one-year
moratorium on operations of more than 1,250 hogs.
In addition, many area family farmers are worried about going out of
business. Paul Homme, a farmer in Renville County, said, "The
money generated leaves the community. It goes someplace else.
And the jobs they bring are lower-paying jobs." "We're going to
chase the smaller farmer out of business unless they're willing to
accept some new technology and some new ideas," assured Larson. A
recent survey showed that property values in Renville County have
been lowered due to their close proximity to hog operations.
Source: Juan Miguel Pedraza, "Contract Growers: America's New
Serfs," AGWEEK, September 12, 1994; "Hog Heaven Raises
Environmental Concern," AGWEEK, September 12, 1994; Amy Jo
Brandel, "Valuation of Homes Near Hog Farms Lowered in Renville
County," AGRI NEWS, September 7, 1994; James Walsh, "Hog Heaven,"
MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE, September 4, 1994.
HOUSE, SENATE BUDGET ABOLISHES WETLANDS PROGRAM
A House-Senate budget committee agreed recently to abolish the
Water Bank program, an $8 million a year program that has
protected an estimated 750,000 acres of wetlands. "We were out of
money," said Representative Richard Durbin (D-IL), chair of the
House agricultural appropriations subcommittee. The program
represents the biggest cut in the 1995 budget. Lawmakers from the
south and Midwest, where the program was popular, are trying to
get a bill passed that will allow the payments to farmers to continue
by allowing the Water Bank program to be transferred to the
Wetlands Reserve Program, which pays farmers to restore farmed
wetlands. Representative Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) said the 1985
Swampbuster law, which prevents farmers who receive subsidies
under federal farm programs from draining their wetlands, would
keep much of the Water Bank land out of production. "It isn't fair for
the government to cut off the payments," he said.
Source: Philip Brasher, "Farmers-Wetlands," AP, September 21,
METHYL BROMIDE OPPONENTS EXPRESS GRIEVANCES TO ESPY
At an outdoor ceremony in Washington, D.C. honoring USDA
employees for their work during the past year and featuring Mike
Espy and illie Nelson, opponents of the continued use of the ozone-
depleting fumigant methyl bromide tried to voice their opinion.
Demonstrators included members of environmental groups and the
Teamsters Union. The Teamsters presence was the result of a bitter
labor battle at the Sun-Diamond walnut company in California. "Our
workers are at risk," said Teamsters official Ron Carver. He said Espy
has used improper influence at the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) to delay a phaseout of methyl bromide. Espy, who announced
his resignation from the USDA effective the end of this year, has
been embroiled in an ethics controversy which has depicted him as
having close ties to Sun-Diamond lobbyists, among others. The
demonstrators agreed to retreat after USDA officials promised them a
meeting to discuss their concerns.
Source: "Protesters Target Espy, Fumigant," THE PACKER, September
WISCONSIN AG DEPARTMENT CONSIDERING MORE ATRAZINE
The Wisconsin agriculture department is holding public hearings to
discuss the possibility of further banning the use of atrazine on
Wisconsin farms. Many Wisconsin areas have polluted groundwater
as a result of contamination by atrazine and its use has been banned
in many areas. The department is proposing that eight new areas be
added to the banned list and that four areas where atrazine is
currently banned be expanded.
Source: Aaron Baar, "Midwest Farming Today," UPI, September 27,
ORGANIC DAIRYING SEES BIGGER MAY INDEED BE BETTER
Boulder, Colorado-based Natural Horizons, the nation's largest
distributor of organic milk, says it hopes to own 2,500 of its own
cows next year to produce organic milk. The prospect supposedly
has farmers in the Coulee Region Organic Producer Pool (CROPP) in
Wisconsin, which is made up of family-sized farmers, shaking in
their boots. Currently, CROPP producers are the only providers of
Natural Horizons milk, which has allowed the pool to grow from eight
to 45 producers in six years. CROPP farmers receive about $16.10 a
hundredweight for their milk. While CROPP board member Jim
Wedeberg says he believes the growing organic market has room for
everyone, he is worried that more large farms will enter the fray. "It
scares us. You've got to say they're a threat." The Natural Horizon
farm will be located on 4,000 acres owned by Aurora Farms, a firm
that has large dairies in Colorado and Texas.
Source: Joel McNair, "Organic Dairying Goes Big Time," AGRI VIEW,
August 26, 1994.
FARMERS SAYS CONSERVATION COMPLIANCE ALLOWS FOR
Iowa farmers are reportedly finding flexibility in complying with
their conservation plans. "Each farmer [has] to adjust to what works
for him," said farmer Glenn Buresh. A review of conservation
compliance by the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) showed that 85% of
the tracts under conservation compliance met their plans or were
considered fine due to some variance. Dennis Pate of the SCS said the
review also showed that 7% of farmers were not actively complying
while an additional 8% were "conditionally active," which means part
of their work was done but structural work awaited them this fall.
What was gratifying, Pate said, was that they determined farmers
often do more than their plan requires. "When a guy switches tillage
systems, generally he doesn't stop when he gets off his highly
Farmers need to manage crop residue now to ensure adequate
residue remains after spring planting, according to Bob Durland,
South Dakota State University Extension Service. Conservation
compliance plans require that 30% of crop residue remains on the
field after spring planting. "Farmers really have to watch tillage
operations so 30 percent remains," Durland warned. "A moldboard
plow could destroy 100 percent of the residue." To help farmers
plan, South Dakota county extension offices have designed a residue
scorecard, which helps determine how much residue remains.
Farmers need to consider whether they have a fragile crop (corn
silage, soybeans and safflower) or a non fragile crop (corn, alfalfa and
small grains); how machinery is used; and winter weathering. "With
the scorecard, farmers can figure out the whole tillage operation
from tillage through seeding next spring to get an idea how much
residue remains on the surface," said Durland.
December 5 to 12, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad will honor farmers
with Farmer Appreciation Week. SCS and farm groups asked the
governor's office to make the declaration to recognize attempts at soil
and water conservation by Iowa farmers. "Both farmers and non-
farmers in Iowa recognize that soil and water consevration in Iowa
has mushroomed," said Lynn Betts, of SCS. Many of the state's soil
and water conservation districts will hold open houses and members
of the community will have a chance to sign giant thank-you cards
Source: Dan Zinkand, "Flexibility Helps 10-Year Program Succeed,"
IOWA FARMER TODAY, September 24, 1994; "Crop Residue Requires
Careful Management," FARM & RANCH GUIDE, September 23, 1994;
Dan Zinkand, "Farmers' Conservation Efforts Reap Praise," IOWA
FARMER TODAY, September 24, 1994.
METROFARM: THE GUIDE TO GROWING FOR BIG PROFIT ON A
PARCEL OF LAND is a new book by farmer, businessperson and
journalist Michael Olson. The book examines how urbanites can farm
on small plots of land and make money off their venture. The book
is available for $29.95 (plus $5.00 shipping/handling) from TS Books,
P.O. Box 1244, Santa Cruz, CA 95061, Tel: (800) 624-BOOK.
The Leopold Center has published the proceedings of its fourth
annual conference, Sustainable Agriculture: People, Products and
Profits, held in August. Attendees may receive the proceedings free
of charge; non-participants may receive a copy for $5.00. Contact
Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, 126 Soil Tilth Building,
Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, Tel: (515) 294-3711, Email:
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
NATIONAL ORGANIC STANDARDS BOARD MEETING, October 10-15,
1994, California. FFI, contact: NOSB, Tel: (202) 720-2704.
FORESTRY AND THE ENVIRONMENT: ECONOMIC PERSPECTIVES II,
October 12-15, 1994, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. FFI,
contact: Dr. Bill White, Northern Forestry Centre, Canadian Forest
Service, 5320 122nd Street, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6H 3S5, Tel:
(403) 435-7315, Fax: (403) 435-7356, email:
MANAGEMENT INTENSIVE GRAZING WORKSHOP, October 12-14,
1994, Linneus, MO. FFI, contact: Forage Systems Research Center, Rt.
1, Box 80, Linneus, MO 64653, Tel: (816) 895-5121.
SEEDS OF HOPE: THE ARCTIC TO AMAZONIA CONGRESS ON
COMMUNITY AND SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY, October 13-17, 1994.
FFI, contact: Erik van Lennep, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
BUILDING BRIDGES, NATIONAL GROWTH MANAGEMENT
CONFERENCE, October 14, 1994, St. Paul, MN. FFI, contact: Land
Stewardship Project, 14758 Ostlund Trail North, Marine on St. Croix,
MN 55047, Tel: (612) 433-2770.
1994 INTERNATIONAL SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE AND FOOD
SECURITY WEEK, October 23-21, 1994, Washington, D.C. FFI, contact:
Linda Elswick, World Sustainable Agriculture Association, 1331
Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite 907, Washington, D.C. 20004, Tel: (202)
347-0637, Email: email@example.com or Tom Forster, NGO Working
Group on Sustainable Agriculture, Tel: (808) 737-0300, Email:
MANAGEMENT FOR ENHANCED PROFITABILITY IN PLANTATIONS,
October 24-25, 1994, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. FFI, contact: The
Incorporated Society of Planters, P.O. Box 10262, 50708 Kuala
Lampur, Malaysia, Tel: (603) 242-5561, Fax: (603) 242-6898.
DOWN TO EARTH: PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS OF ECOLOGICAL
ECONOMICS, October 24-28, 1994, San Jose, Costa Rica. FFI, contact:
III International Conference of Ecological Economics, P.O. Box 555-
3000, Heredia, Costa Rica.
BIOLOGICAL CONTROL OF INSECTS, November 1-3, 1994, Lincoln, NE.
FFI, contact: Nancy Fields, Conference Coordinator, Tel: (402) 472-
2844, Fax: (402) 472-9688, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
TENNESSEE ALTERNATIVE GROWERS ASSOCIATION FALL
CONFERENCE, November 1, 1994, Livingston, TN. FFI, contact: Paul
Roe, 164 Roe Lane, Livingston, TN 38570, Tel: (615) 823-7844.
MARYLAND ORGANIC FOOD AND FARMING ASSOCIATION ANNUAL
MEETING, November 1-2, 1994, Annapolis, MD. FFI, contact: MOFFA,
6201 Harley Road, Middletown, MD 21769, Tel: (301) 371-4814.
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.