>From iatp Wed Jan 11 15:37:55 1995
>From iatp Wed Jan 11 15:37:56 1995
Received: (from iatp) by igc2.igc.apc.org (8.6.9/Revision: 1.5 ) id PAA07145 for mthom; Wed, 11 Jan 1995 15:37:55 -0800
Date: Wed, 11 Jan 1995 15:37:55 -0800
>From: IATP <iatp>
Sustainable Agriculture News
January 11, 1995
Volume 4, Number 1
- SUSTAINABLE CAN BE COMPETITIVE, STUDY SAYS
- HOG INDUSTRY CONCENTRATION, GROWTH OF LARGE FARMS HOT
TOPIC IN AG
- SUSTAINABLE AG, FARM BILL UP IN THE AIR
- ORGANIC PRODUCTION, GRAZING GET MORE ATTENTION
- USDA TO INCREASE USE OF IPM
- CRP EXTENSION GRANTED
- EU AGREES TO ENVIRONMENTAL SET-ASIDE
SUSTAINABLE CAN BE COMPETITIVE, STUDY SAYS
A study released last month by the Minnesota-based Northwest Area
Foundation concludes that sustainable production practices do
improve the environment and lower costs of production. "A Better
Row to Hoe" is the completion of a $4.5 million survey of the
economic, environmental and social impacts of sustainable
agriculture in Minnesota, Iowa, North and South Dakota, Montana,
Washington and Oregon. Among the study's conclusions were:
% sustainable farms are profitable despite receiving fewer
federal commodity payments than conventional farms;
% sustainable farmers purchase fewer inputs but tend to
purchase the inputs they do require from local dealers, contributing
to the well-being of their community;
% sustainable farmers spent about a quarter more of their time
% it may be easier for beginning farmers to start sustainably than
to move from conventional to sustainable; and
% sustainable methods rely less on inputs but may result in some
The report indicates that while "on average sustainable farmers did
not earn as much profit as conventional farmers in 1991, the
economic performance of the best sustainable farmers shows that
sustainable agriculture can compete with conventional agriculture,"
said Marty Strange of the Center for Rural Affairs in Nebraska.
According to Ann Robinson of the Izaak Walton League, the study
"demonstrates the importance of sustainable agriculture ... to our
environment, wildlife and the future of American agriculture" and
"also confirms the presence of disincentives to sustainable practices
in current farm policies."
While sustainable agriculture can benefit rural communities, a
change in public policy is needed. The report recommends that farm
commodity performance be tied to environmental improvements and
that more funding be directed toward sustainable agriculture
research. "Sustainable agriculture can and should make an expanded
contribution to America's food supply and to rural stability," the
Farmers involved in the study were positive about the results.
"When we started trying to make this thing work, we had lots of
doubts. Now looking at where we're at, I'm glad we did it," said
sustainable farmer George Yokiel of Wells, Minnesota.
In the wake of the study, an editorial in the MINNEAPOLIS STAR
TRIBUNE stated that "federal farm programs especially weigh heavily
in favor of conventional practices that depend on high levels of
chemical and fertilizer use to achieve high volumes of production of a
narrow range of crops," primarily corn, wheat and soybeans. And
because the full cost of production is not reflected in the price paid to
farmers and the costs borne by consumers, the country is losing
more farmers to consolidation. The editorial says the report's
recommendations to tie commodity program benefits to
environmental stewardship is good advice.
An editorial in the journal AGWEEK examined the debate between
proponents of industrial versus sustainable agriculture. According to
Earl Butz, to whom the editorial refers to as the self-appointed guru
of unrestrained productivity, "If we continue to unleash the great
productivity of our farmers -- and leave them free to respond to an
unencumbered incentive price system -- American agriculture will
continue to be the basis of prosperity and peace, for both this nation
and the world." On the other hand, Fred Kirschenmann, a North
Dakota sustainable farmer, believes that sustainable agriculture
offers farmers an opportunity to form a partnership with the land.
Kirschenmann said he doubts that we will see any widespread shift
to sustainable practices given the dependence on the industrial
model; however, the editorial says "we can and should acknowledge
the dreadful cost that our system imposes on our ecosystem and on
our grandchildren, to fix what we've undone."
Source: Jane Fyksen, "Sustainable Ag Turning New Economic,
Environmental Ground," AGRI VIEW, December 30, 1994; Gordon S.
Carlson, "Sustainable Farming Needs to Show It Can Be Profitable,"
FEEDSTUFFS, January 2, 1995; "Farm Policy," MINNEAPOLIS STAR
TRIBUNE, January 1, 1995; "Land-Friendly Farming: More Work,
Less Profit," IOWA FARMER TODAY, December 17, 1994; "Sustainable
Ag Paid Less," THE NEIGHBOR, December 16, 1994; Juan Miguel
Pedraza, "Is Bigger Really Better?" AGWEEK, December 19, 1994;
"Output Vs. Throughput in Farming," AGWEEK, December 19, 1994.
HOG INDUSTRY CONCENTRATION, GROWTH OF LARGE FARMS HOT
TOPIC IN AG
Issues of concentration in the hog industry and the resulting low
farmgate prices are expected to be hot topics in agriculture in 1995.
Last month, prices averaged around 28 cents a pound, having been
pushed to a six-year record low by a huge hog surplus. States
famous for their corporate, factory-style farms like Missouri and
North Carolina are said to be stepping up production in an attempt to
make up for their losses. As a result, states where smaller producers
still prevail -- Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota -- are under
increasing pressure to open up their corporate farm laws to allow for
expansions. Eight of the nation's largest hog producers are located in
North Carolina while three are located in Missouri, according to a
recent survey by SUCCESSFUL FARMING magazine.
In Minnesota, small communities are mobilizing to fight large hog
expansion. In Renville County, citizens are fighting a 6,000 head
operation on environmental grounds. "This is all for cheap food. It
seems to be their intention to drive people off the land," said Joann
Eckstein, a neighbor of Churchill Cooperative. Eckstein and others are
pushing the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to put
stricter controls on the Churchill Cooperative. Praising the
cooperative as a value-added operation, David Melberg said, "Change
is hard for some people to accept. It's hard for people to accept the
added value to production."
Farmers in Ohio say their biggest fear is the advent of "megafarms."
One farmer said he believes he will lose his farm if a planned large-
scale hog operation goes through in his area. "I look at the way
things are now and I wonder if I should even pass it along to my
kids," said farmer Charlie Otte. Two cases have recently sparked the
debate in Ohio -- a 1,200 sow operation and a 2.5 million egg
operation in the central and western parts of the state, respectively.
In both cases, local officials tried to block the operations through
zoning laws but were sued by the companies behind the operations.
"Many families who have lived on and maintained their farms for
years are being told they must accept a 2.5 million chicken or 1,200-
sow operation next to their property and take the consequences
because it's progress," said Charlie Nash, president of the Ohio
Farmers Union. "Shouldn't these people have a say in how their
communities develop?" Supporters say their operations abide by
environmental regulations and will benefit family-sized farmers,
who can become contractors. "We will make a major economic
impact in the Hardin County area because we are going to buy grain
there. We're going to hire people from there to run the operations,"
said F. Michael Lorz, who works for AgriGeneral, the company behind
the egg operation. "If the fears are about big, we can't change that."
In Iowa, a state-appointed task force released its recommendations
for expanding hog operations. Headed by David Topel, the dean of
the college of agriculture at Iowa State University, the task force
concluded that there is no affordable way to get rid of the smell
associated with large hog confinement operations; however, they felt
their recommendations would effectively protect the environment
while making Iowa pork production profitable. Their
recommendations include: making large confinements at least 750
feet from a neighbor; state funding for pilot projects involving large
operations and reduced smell; requiring large producers to purchase
a permit prior to putting in a manure storage tank, lagoon or pit; and
protecting those who follow all regulations from nuisance lawsuits.
"We're helping farmers make money if they use good environmental
methods," said Topel.
Source: "Hogs, Cattle, Corn Push Down Farm Prices," IOWA FARMER
TODAY, December 10, 1994; "Minnesota Food fight," IOWA FARMER
TODAY, December 10, 1994; Robert Greene, "Farm Scene," AP,
December 30, 1994; "Ohio Farmers Fearing Megafarms," AGRI NEWS,
December 15, 1994; "Task Force Releases Proposals for Feedlot Regs,"
IOWA FARMER TODAY, December 10, 1994.
SUSTAINABLE AG, FARM BILL UP IN THE AIR
After last year's elections, the future of sustainable agriculture in
federal farm policy is seemingly up in the air. A recent article in the
journal FEEDSTUFFS says that while the conservative-oriented
Congress is probably less concerned with environmental
considerations, there will still be debate on the topic.
At a recent meeting of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation, three
environmental organizations talked about their hopes for the 1995
Farm Bill. Loni Kemp of the Minnesota Project said her group is
interested in the farm bill as agriculture policy amounts to social
planning for the environment and rural communities. She said that
she is hoping the next farm bill will lower the barriers which face
many sustainable producers, such as commodity programs that
reward high production for just a few commodities; policies that
discourage crop rotations; and the lack of supply control mechanisms
that do not protect the environment and lower feed prices, thereby
creating incentives for concentrated livestock production. In
addition, given the current political climate, the farm bill may
represent the only opportunity to get major environmental
legislation passed, she said. Also present were Cheryl Miller of the
National Audubon Society, who said her group plans to push for
continuing the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the
Wetlands Reserve Program, and Brett Smith of the Sierra Club, who
said cleaning up the Minnesota River, which has problems associated
with agricultural run-off, is a top priority.
At the North Dakota Farmers Union annual convention last month,
President Alan Bergman said there is no excuse for supporting the
subsidization of industrial agriculture. He said he hoped the new
Congress would be willing to look at new ideas in the upcoming farm
bill debate. "The real question," he said, "is how do we provide
necessary protection of our nation's family farmers?" He leveled
criticism at farm programs that fail to pay farmers the cost of
production and target benefits to production levels, thereby
benefiting large "superfarms." "It is time to break the stranglehold
of the special interests as represented in the complex of
multinational agribusiness and food conglomerates, which have been
shaping our nation's farm policies," he said.
The biggest obstacle facing many parties interested in the farm bill is
a willingness on the part of new Senate Agriculture Committee Chair
Richard Lugar (R-IN) to cut agricultural subsidies. The latest talk is
that ag subsidy cuts would help in the Republican quest to provide
the middle class with a tax break. "I think that the amount of money
spent in this area is not well spent. In a time in which there is a
calling for a middle-class tax cut, for example, and responsible ways
to pay for that ... (cutting farm programs) is one way to do that," he
said. He conceded that others on his committee do not share his
perspective and that the will of the committee and Congress both
could be to maintain the status quo by simply adding 5% more to the
Source: Gordon S. Carlson, "With New Congress, Environmental
Aspects of Farm Bill Up for Grabs," FEEDSTUFFS, November 28, 1994;
Amy Jo Brandel, "Environmentalists Want Farm Bill Participation,"
AGRI NEWS, December 22, 1994; "Bergman Sees Opportunities for
Farm Bill Reforms," FARM & RANCH GUIDE, December 16, 1994; "Ag
Subsidies Targeted," AGWEEK, January 2, 1995.
ORGANIC PRODUCTION, GRAZING GET MORE ATTENTION
More farmers are showing an interest in turning to grazing as an
option in dairy production. University of Minnesota dairy scientist
Dennis Johnson said the reasons behind the shift in interest are high
capital costs associated with confinement production; high risks
associated with the acquisition of such capital; and the potential to
lower input costs. Also pushing the trend are improved animal
health, more effective manure management, positive ecological
effects and a better quality of life for farmers who practice grazing.
A University of Minnesota graduate student is currently studying 30
farmers making the switch from conventional to grazing production.
Economics, management techniques, systems, problems and successes
will all be documented.
In Wisconsin, a controversial grazing project has received the go-
ahead from the Manitowoc County Board of Supervisors. The
$100,000 study will examine the water quality implications of
streambank grazing systems. The project, which was set to begin last
year, ran into obstacles when Manitowoc County soil and water
conservation officials objected to a portion of the project that has
grazing occurring near an intermittent stream -- something which is
expressly prohibited under Wisconsin's Farmland Preservation
Program guidelines. Approval was granted when soil and water
conservation officials agreed to sit on a panel that would guide the
In Minnesota, the demand for organic milk is rising. Last summer,
Minnesota Organic Milk -- or MOMs -- hit store shelves with their
new organic fluid product. Sales have grown from 35 to 180 cases a
week. Doug Gunnink, a Gaylord, Minnesota dairy farmer and partner
in MOMs, said not only have sales expanded, but so has interest in
becoming part of MOMs. He said they currently have a waiting list of
about 20 farmers, not all of whom are certified organic. "Many of the
organic farmers felt that there was an interest in their milk and the
kind of milk that doesn't use antibiotics or hormones," he said. He
added that MOMs producers are currently receiving about $3.00
more per hundredweight than conventional dairy producers.
In yet another twist, two Iowa State University extension agents
have developed a plan to link beginning farmers with retired dairy
farmers. Dick Horne and Paul Brown developed the plan, entitled
"Two-Generation Dairy Cow Leasing," which involves having
beginning farmers lease existing herds from retired farmers.
Ultimately, the leased herd would be transferred to the beginning
farmer under the agreement. The terms of the leases would be
based on the amount of time it would take to replace the original
herd. The beginning farmer pays the operating costs and receives all
milk income. The retired farmer receives income from the lease
agreement. "The retiring farmer has the satisfaction of starting a
young person in the dairy business and he also knows that his well-
bred herd can remain intact as a working unit," said Horne.
Source: "Milking Profits," AGWEEK, December 19, 1994; "Grazing
Systems More Popular," THE NEIGHBOR, December 30, 1994; Joel
McNair, "Manitowac Grazing Project Okayed," AGRI VIEW, December
16, 1994; Doug Gunnink, Telephone Communication, January 10,
1995; "There's Nothing Like Mother's Milk," AGWEEK, January 2,
1995; James Walsh, "Dairies Find Niche in Organic Food Market,"
MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE, December 21, 1994; Jean Caspers-
Simmet, "Dairy Herd Leasing Gets Support," AGRI NEWS, December
USDA TO INCREASE USE OF IPM
Last month, the USDA announced a plan to provide American
farmers with the tools they need to implement Integrated Pest
Management (IPM) techniques by the year 2000. The plan is part of
a Clinton administration commitment to have 75% of the nation's
farmer using IPM by the end of this century. IPM combines
different crop production practices with a careful monitoring of plant
and insect pests. The USDA plan will target research and education
programs, forcing them to meet farmers' needs with regard to IPM.
"This IPM initiative is a good example of how USDA is strengthening
and focusing its research and extension programs to produce results
that benefit agriculture and the country as a whole," said Deputy
Secretary of Agriculture Richard Rominger. "With this initiative,
USDA is kicking off a concerted national effort to achieve widespread
use of IPM into the next century." For more information, contact
Tom Amontree, Tel: (202) 720-4623 or Maria Bynum, Tel: (202)
Source: "USDA Announces National Plan To Increase Use of
Integrated Pest Management," USDA PRESS RELEASE, December 14,
CRP EXTENSION GRANTED
Last month, then Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy said his agency
would take steps to ensure that the popular Conservation Reserve
Program (CRP) is continued. Since 1985, CRP has paid farmers to
keep some 36 million acres of highly erodible land out of production.
The USDA decision will enable farmers to extend their contracts for
another 10 years at a cost of about $1.8 billion a year. The decision
was quickly criticized by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Richard
Lugar, who said that while he supports the goals of the CRP, the
extension may be unachievable in terms of the budget. "I'm trying
not to offer false hopes and furthermore to inflate the budget ...
while we're busy talking elsewhere about the need for down-sizing
the government's budget," Lugar said.
Source: "Lugar Criticizes 10-Year Extension of CRP," IOWA FARMER
TODAY, December 17, 1994; "Victory on CRP," CAMPAIGN FOR
SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE ACTION ALERT, December 20, 1994.
EU AGREES TO ENVIRONMENTAL SET-ASIDE
Last month, farm ministers of the European Union agreed to develop
a set-aside plan that would allow farmers to plant trees or make
environmental improvements on idled land. Under the Common
Agricultural Policy (CAP), farmers must set aside 12% of their arable
land this year in an effort to ease overproduction. Until now,
farmers were discouraged from planting trees or participating in
other environmental schemes on their set-aside land, such as
restoring meadows, marshes or wetlands and creating new wildlife
habitat. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said the
decision represents "a very important step towards restoring the U.K.
Source: Deborah Hargreaves, "EU Agriculture Ministers Agree
Environmental Set-Aside Plan," FINANCIAL TIMES, December 16,
GroundCover is a publication of the Permaculture Association of
Zimbabwe. Articles of interest in the most recent edition include
"Storing Seed Without Pest Problems" and "Intercropping -- How
Farmers Can Take Control Again." Subscription prices begin at
U.S.$30.00/year. For more information, contact the Permaculture
Association of Zimbabwe, Box CY 301, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe,
Tel/Fax: (+4) 726911.
The Leopold Letter is a publication of the Leopold Center for
Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. The newsletter is
available for free from the Leopold Center, 126 Soil Tilth Building,
Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, Tel: (515) 294-3711.
Biotechnology and Sustainable Agriculture: A Bibliography is now
available from the National Agricultural Library. For more
information, contact the Biotechnology Information Center and NAL,
4th Floor, 10301 Baltimore Blvd., Beltsville, MD 20705, Tel: (301)
504-5947, Fax: (301) 504-7098, Email: email@example.com.
Soil Quality -- Agriculture's Next Frontier, January 13, 1995, St.
Cloud, MN. FFI, contact: Fred Bergsrud, 209 Agricultural
Engineering, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, Tel: (612)
625-4756, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sustainable Agriculture and the 1995 Farm Bill, January 23-25,
1995, Washington, D.C. FFI, contact: Council for Agricultural Science
and Technology (CAST), 4420 West Lincoln Way, Ames, IA 50014,
Tel: (515) 292-2125, Fax: (515) 292-4512, Email:
Organic Agriculture: Growing the Network, January 27-28, 1995,
Guelph, Ontario. FFI, contact: Hugh Martin, Ontario Ministry of
Agriculture, Tel: (519) 631-4700 or Tomas Nimmo, Canadian Organic
Growers, Tel: (705) 444-0923.
Who Owns America? Land and Resource Tenure Issues in a Changing
Environment, June 21-24, 1995, Madison, WI. FFI, contact: Gene
Summers, North American Program, Land Tenure Center, University
of Wisconsin, 1357 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53715, Tel:
(608) 262-3658, Fax: (608) 262-2141, Email:
Edited 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.