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Sustainable Agriculture News
Produced by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
February 7, 1995
Volume 4, Number 2
- Further Delay of Worker Protection Standards
- New York Times Addresses Hog Concentration Issue
- CBO Forecast Could Shrink CRP Acreage
- Farm Bill News
- Wise Use is Property Rights and Societal Restrictions on Land Use
- More Organic Producers Use Direct Marketing
- More Farmers Turn to Off-Farm Income to Sustain Families
- DuPont Fined for Withholding Data in Hawaii Benlate Case
- Expansion Not First on Everyone's Mind
- Weed Scientists Wonder if IPM Effective in Long Run
- Grazing, rBGH go Hand in Hand: FEEDSTUFFS
Further Delay of Worker Protection Standards
Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed
further changes -- resulting in further delay -- to the Worker
Protection Standards (WPS). Implementation of the WPS, which
requires that farmworkers be provided with protective clothing,
safety training in pesticide handling and warning signs in fields, was
delayed by lawmakers last year. A letter to three Republican
lawmakers late last year by a coalition made up of the National
Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) and 18
other groups, sought an additional delay from the January 1, 1995
implementation date. Calling itself the Coalition for Sensible
Farmworker Protection, the group wants to see the WPS delayed
until "EPA and states can agree on how this thing is supposed to
work," said Rick Kirchoff of NASDA.
The proposed changes by EPA are an attempt to address the concerns
raised in the letter. According to EPA documents, five proposed
changes are: a 4-12 hour variable restricted entry interval; an
exception to allow farmworkers limited contact in treated areas; an
exemption for early entry to perform irrigation tasks; an exemption
for certified or licensed crop advisers; and new training options,
which provide more flexibility for farmers.
The American Farm Bureau Federation is seeking a stay on
enforcement. "We still don't feel the EPA has come up with a
reasonable analysis of the cost," said a spokesperson for the Farm
Bureau. A farmworker advocate said the EPA was caving in to the
farm lobby's demands. "It sounds to me like EPA caved into the
pressure of the agricultural lobbying order to avoid a fight in Congress
over another delay," said Baldemar Velasquez of the Farm Labor
Organizing Committee. EPA has to allow 30 days for public comment
and expects the rules to be in place by March 1.
Source: "EPA To Publish Documents Addressing Farmworker
Protection Standard Concerns," BNA OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY &
HEALTH DAILY," January 13, 1995; Suzanne Steel, "Farmers Seek
Another Delay to Starting Worker Safety Rules," THE COLUMBUS
DISPATCH, January 19, 1995.
New York Times Addresses Hog Concentration Issue
The NEW YORK TIMES recently reported on large hog confinement
operations. The article tells the story of North Carolina hog producer
Barney Rhodes, who now owns four automated, standardized
buildings which hold 5,000 hogs. Rhodes and his wife have a
finishing contract with pork giant Murphy Farms. The Rhodes get
their hogs when they weigh about 50 pounds -- after they have
spent time at farrowing and "nursery" operations. Such contract
farming, the article says, has enabled many farmers to stay afloat in
times of low prices as they are guaranteed a price by the company.
However, many attribute the low prices to the increased number of
hogs on the market -- a direct result of contract farming.
Because of its limited slaughtering capacity, North Carolina-based
Murphy Farms is looking to expand into Iowa, which is still the
nation's number-one hog producing state. Barbara Grabner of the
Iowa group Prairiefire Rural Action described contract farming as
"the hottest issue now." She said the concerns of Iowans reflect those
already discussed in North Carolina. "It's the scale of these
operations and some of the environmental problems they may bring
which makes people here nervous. They even smell different and
worse than our traditional hog farms."
Indeed, the environmental problems are a concern for those who live
downstream. Ann Joyner of Wilson, North Carolina said she moved
last summer to get away from the smell of a 24,000 hog operation
less than a mile from her home. "The smell of hog manure, urine and
ammonia and dust would just float all over and it made me so
depressed and so angry." Wendell Murphy, owner of Murphy Farms,
said of large hog operations, "There's a stigma attached to it in some
places. But it makes sense economically."
In other hog news, small farmers are being told they can compete if
they manage costs and produce a lean pig. At a forum in Iowa last
month, about 700 Iowa hog producers told panelists that small
farmers fear losing their livelihoods as they can't compete with
bigger operations. "What it (the packer) really cares about is
whether the hogs will kill the way it needs to kill them," responded
Iowa veterinarian David Farnum. Swine specialist Dick Juhl said
plants are paying larger premiums for leaner hogs than those who
can simply guarantee a large number of hogs on a regular basis. Dr.
Val Farmer, a psychologist, said farmers need to remain positive in
In news from the states, a legislative committee in Iowa failed to
reach an agreement on how to deal with large hog lots around the
state. Legislative action is not being ruled out. The South Dakota
Pork Producers voted overwhelmingly at their annual convention to
keep the state's corporate farm law intact. The council made the
decision after a government-appointed task force recommended the
law be overturned to allow for the establishment of large operations
throughout the state. In Missouri, opponents of a proposed 20,000
head hog operation are attempting to block it in court. Neighbors
Against Large Swine Operations went before the Missouri Court of
Appeals last week to have their case heard after it was thrown out
by a lower court over a procedural question. A ruling is expected in
60-90 days. And in Minnesota, a corporate farm task force voted not
to give farmers the option of forming limited liability corporations.
The task force also agreed not to open the state's corporate farm law
to allow for the establishment of huge dairy operations, but agreed to
recommend reduction in the number of farmers required to be
involved in a large operation from 51% to 35%.
The USDA's Hog Outlook said that while expansion in North Carolina
has indeed been dramatic, environmental costs could increase the
cost of production and make continued expansions unlikely. In
addition, "while hog operations with fewer than 100 head account for
about 60 percent of all such operations in the country, these smaller
farms are being squeezed out by dropping hog prices."
Source: Ronald Smothers, "Slopping the Hogs, the Assembly-Line
Way," NEW YORK TIMES, January 30, 1995; Kevin Blind, "Small
Farmers Can Compete," IOWA FARMER TODAY, January 21, 1995;
Consensus on Hog Lots," IOWA FARMER TODAY, February 4, 1995;
"Producers Reject Recommendation to Repeal Hog Farm Law," FARM
& RANCH GUIDE, January 27, 1995; "Group Fights Hog Corporation in
Missouri Court," AGRI NEWS, February 2, 1995; Paul Adams,
"Corporate Farm Task Force Votes on Recommendations," AGRI
February 2, 1995; "Farm Scene," AP, January 27, 1995.
CBO Forecast Could Shrink CRP Acreage
A recent budget forecast by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
could eventually shrink the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
from its current 36.5 million acres to about 15. Under the CBO
forecast, the group Pheasants Forever said CRP acreage would be cut
by about 5 million acres each year beginning in 1998. The jury is
still out on whether Congress will decide to continue the program,
which costs an estimated $1.9 billion a year.
Once again, many farmers say they will return their land to
production if the CRP is discontinued. "I'm going to bring as much
back into production as I can," said Iowa farmer Rick Swanson,
adding that he would do so in an environmentally friendly manner.
In a late 1993 survey by the Soil and Water Conservation Society,
63% said they would return their land to production. Swanson
suggested the government base its enrollment on the corn suitability
of the land and target watersheds directly linked to drinking water
supplies. "I'd like to see people in the CRP because of the
conservation benefits and not because the government is a good
tenant," said Swanson.
Source: Andrew Buchanen, "Midwest Farming Today," UPI, January
30, 1995; Dan Zinkand, "Most Program Land Returning to Production,"
IOWA FARMER TODAY, January 28, 1995; Dan Zinkand, "What Will
Happen to Idle Land?" IOWA FARMER TODAY, January 26, 1995.
Farm Bill News
When asked how he thought the 1995 Farm Bill could promote
sustainable agriculture, Iowa farmer Dick Svoboda replied, "In our
community, the farm program is the corn program. I'd like to see
the farm program cover more areas than just corn." Kathy Walter
responded, "Remove commodity program penalties for farmers
practicing sustainability. Allow participating farmers to use setaside
acres for activities benefiting the environment without losing their
The journal FEEDSTUFFS presented the American Farmland Trusts'
(AFT) policy proposals for the upcoming farm bill debate. Among the
groups proposals are: a "green" payment system, which would
reward farmers for environmental stewardship; a conservation credit
initiative; an environmental stewardship incentives program; and a
sustainable agriculture research and education program. The
proposals were released in the form of nine papers, which AFT's
Anne Sorenson said "should serve as a valuable resource" in the
upcoming farm bill debate.
Talk of the farm bill in the state of Minnesota is varied. Mark Ritchie
of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy says everyone has a
stake in the upcoming farm bill debate. "It determines how our
nation's food supply, and the soil and water we depend on for that
food supply, is going to get treated, used, owned and controlled. It
could be treated carefully or abused. It could be foreign-owned or
protected. It could be cared for ... or abandoned." Mike Martin,
acting dean of the University of Minnesota College of Agriculture,
said, "I'd say about a third of Minnesota's farmers would do just fine
without deficiency payments, a third will learn to survive and a third
will not survive without them."
In a series of three town meetings on the Farm Bill last month,
Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) said, "I'm not interested in seeing
cuts in the Conservation Reserve Program or school lunch programs if
there are not going to be cuts in the budgets of bloated defense
contractors or any cuts in subsidies to oil companies or coal
companies." He said farmers and rural citizens need to stand up and
be counted. In issues of budget cutting and deficit reduction,
Wellstone said it must be done but called for a standard of fairness.
Source: "Ag Scene," IOWA FARMER TODAY, February 4, 1995;
Gordon S. Carlson, "Farmland Preservation Group Offers Plans for
Future Farm Bill Consideration," FEEDSTUFFS, December 26, 1994;
"Farmers Have Big Stake in 1995 Farm Legislation," AGRI NEWS,
January 26, 1995; Amy Jo Brandel, "Farmers, Officials Argue for Farm
Programs," AGRI NEWS, January 26, 1995.
Wise Use is Property Rights and Societal Restrictions on Land Use
A recent article in the journal FEEDSTUFFS examines the so-called
Wise Use movement and related phenomena, such as takings
legislation and the backlash against unfunded mandates. Neil
Hamilton, a professor of law at Drake University, characterizes the
debate as one between private property rights and society's ability
to put limited restrictions on how land is used. "Where to draw the
line between a legitimate exercise of the police power (which may
restrict property use or value, but not require compensation) and a
taking of property for public use (for which compensation is
required) is one of the most fundamental questions in the shaping of
our nation," he writes.
A bill before the House Agriculture Committee would require
compensation for farmers who set aside part of their land as a
designated wetland. Authored by Representatives Billy Tauzin (D-
LA) and Jack Fields (R-TX), the measure would provide "full
compensation" when wetlands legislation causes the market value of
the land to fall 50% or greater.
Representative Pat Robertson, chair of the House Agriculture
Committee, recently told the annual meeting of the American Farm
Bureau Federation, "It is time the federal government quit taking
your property without compensation. It is time we protected
wetlands of true importance to the environment, not some low spot
in your field where no self-respecting duck would ever land."
Source: Niel D. Hamilton, "Property Rights, Takings Issue Oversold to
Agriculture," FEEDSTUFFS, January 23, 1995; Gordon S. Carlson,
"House Ag Panel Considering Bills on Property 'Takings,'"
January 30, 1995.
More Organic Producers Use Direct Marketing
Direct marketing is growing among organic farmers. Katherine
DiMatteo of the Organic Trade Association said increased demand for
organic foods is prompting more growers to test out direct marketing
techniques. According to James Porterfield, a direct marketing
instructor at Penn State, "Direct marketing is perfect for organic
merchants because it is pretty easy to target consumers who want
organic foods by using subscription lists." The mail order market is
dominated by Walnut Acres Organic Farms, based in Penns Creek,
Pennsylvania, which has estimated sales of $7 million to $12 million
annually. The company sends out 2 million catalogs every year and
offers 300 kinds of food products. It also helps that the average
order size is $50, says General Manager Paul Shaw.
Speaking at a recent meeting of the Practical Farmers of Iowa, writer
and farmer Wendell Berry said that local efforts are the way to
preserve the well-being of rural communities. He said that as
consumers become aware of the cheap food myth and the toll
agricultural production takes on the environment, farmers and
consumers need to work together to create "local food-based
economies." Berry said, "If we as communities and farmers and
consumers wish to promote a sustainable, safe supply of reasonably
inexpensive good food, then we must promote strong local economies.
It is in the best interests of consumers to be surrounded by well
farmed and well maintained and productive land, by thriving farm
families and thriving farm communities." Marketing more
agriculture products locally instead of relying on the global economy
will help farmers build strong communities, he said.
Source: Jim Emerson, "DM Increasing Among Organic Farmers," DM
NEWS, January 9, 1995; Jean Caspers-Simmet," AGRI NEWS, January
12, 1995; Dan Zinkand, "Local Ag Markets Build Rural Communities:
PFI Speaker," IOWA FARMER TODAY, January 28, 1995.
More Farmers Turn to Off-Farm Income to Sustain Families
Most family farmers now rely on off-farm employment for more
then half of their income, according to data collected by Iowa State
University. Dave Smith, a farmer who drives a truck
part-time in addition to cultivating 1,200 acres, said, "When ag gets in
trouble, everything is in trouble." The benefit of working off the
farm is that he can increase his income without increasing his
investment -- or debt -- in agriculture. "I am generating more income
without having to expand into other things in agriculture," he said.
According to "A Financial Profile of Iowa Farm Businesses 1993," the
average farming family accrued $23,697 in living expenses while
netting an average of $22,225 to cover those expenses. Most farmers
worked in off-farm jobs to recoup the additional dollars it took to
earn the average $52,757. "Based on state data, there is a lot of
financial vulnerability in the ag sector," said Robert Jolly, ag finance
professor at Iowa State University and author of the profile. Other
findings include: cash grain farms had the highest net farm income
at $32,533 and an additional $13,162 in off-farm wages; hog
producers had the highest net income overall, averaging $73,534,
with $11,423 coming from off-farm sources; and grain-livestock
operations netted an average of $48,149, with off-farm wages
amounting to $12,436. Jolly said the survey tends to be
representative of older farmers with more acreage and dairy was not
included because too small a number was sampled.
The 1992 Census of Agriculture showed 44% of farmers worked at
least one day a week off the farm. Paul Lasley, author of the 1989
Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll said spouses work off the farm in even
greater numbers than farmers. Although his survey is five years old,
Lasley believes it is still relevant. "Farmers and their spouses are
working pretty much full time. "They work locally and nearly half of
them, 49 percent, have been working six or more years."
Source: Joyce Vogelman, "Hitting the Road To Supplement Farm
Income," IOWA FARMER TODAY, January 14, 1995; Joyce Vogelman,
"Net Farm Income Doesn't Pay Living Expenses," IOWA FARMER
TODAY, January 14, 1995; Joyce Vogelman, "High Incidence of Off-
Farm Working," IOWA FARMER TODAY, January 14, 1995.
DuPont Fined for Withholding Data in Hawaii Benlate Case
A state court judge in Hawaii imposed a fine amounting to $1.5
million on the DuPont chemical company for withholding evidence
from plaintiffs in a lawsuit over the company's Benlate product.
Judge Ronald Ibarra will instruct jurors that the company had
withheld damaging evidence on at least two occasions. The jurors, he
said, would then have the option to construe the withholding of
evidence as admission of guilt. Ibarra also lifted all protective orders
on DuPont documents except those containing confidential business
information. The two growers suing the company are seeking $62
million in damages. The company said it will appeal Judge Ibarra's
Source: "Judge Fines DuPont for Withholding Data," WALL STREET
JOURNAL, January 20, 1995.
Expansion Not First on Everyone's Mind
Young farmers interviewed recently by AGRI VIEW said they are not
buying the "bigger is better" line currently being promoted by
various voices within the dairy industry. Darin Von Rudin hosted an
informal meeting for young farmers recently and close to 40 showed
up. All agreed that they were good managers, yet reluctant to borrow a
lot of money and take on a lot of employees. Instead, they said they
want to reclaim their industry and to produce stable milk prices at
around $15 a hundredweight. Von Rudin said he thinks young
farmers are being "brainwashed" into thinking they have to expend to
survive. "I don't want to compete. I want to live," said John
The first thing they want to do is get rid of the Commodity Credit
Corporation (CCC), which purchases dairy surplus. "The CCC is what
the (processing) cooperatives fall back on. If we got rid of the CCC,
the cooperatives would have to do a better job of marketing," said
Von Rudin. Hemmersbach believes such an initiative would force
processors to stop fighting and voluntarily manage supply to keep
their costs down. They say they are not sure where they will go
from here but are tossing around the idea of holding similar
meetings in other Wisconsin counties. "Maybe people will start
calling their cooperatives and the managers will get back to us," said
Source: Joel McNair, "These Young Farmers Want Something
Different," AGRI VIEW, January 27, 1995.
Weed Scientists Wonder if IPM Effective in Long Run
A recent edition of Farm Journal has agronomists wondering if
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques can really reduce the
use of herbicides in the long run. "A key part of weed IPM is the use
of thresholds," said Professor Robin Bellinder of Cornell University.
"I'm basically against use of thresholds to reduce pesticide use."
Bellinder said leaving weeds in fields any longer than necessary
increases weed seed, which can lead to an increased need for
herbicides. Sharon Clay, a weed scientist in South Dakota, said her
studies have demonstrated increased weediness in plots where low
herbicide use occurred. Robert Hartzler, a weed scientist at Iowa
said that in many regions, a combination of practices such as
cultivation, cover cropping and other IPM weed techniques work.
But, Hartzler pointed out, it is not quite true to say that farmers have
all the tools necessary for reducing herbicide use at their disposal.
For example, he said, "We think soil sampling for weed seed has
promise. But it's a long way from being reliably useful to farmers."
Source: Greg D. Horstmeier, "IPM -- Savior or Taskmaster?" FARM
JOURNAL, Mid-January 1995.
Grazing, rBGH go Hand in Hand: FEEDSTUFFS
The journal FEEDSTUFFS recently covered a presentation by a New
Zealand animal scientist on the synergy between grazing and the use
of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or BST). The two
techniques, according to Stuart McCutcheon, are not mutually
exclusive, even though one implies a reliance on natural systems
while the other involves the use of a synthetic drug. "The choice we
face, be it in New Zealand or in the U.S., is not a simple one of 'BST or
pastoral systems or confinement systems.' Each of these approaches
has its unique advantages ... and each requires careful management
to achieve economic returns," he told the participants in a forum
sponsored by Monsanto, manufacturer of Posilac, the first rBGH
product to receive FDA approval. McCutcheon believes that while
grazing is not a panacea, it does have the advantage of low cost.
"There is no doubt that pasture-fed cows will respond to BST," he
An Ashland, Wisconsin couple who employ grazing techniques in
their dairy operation made the list of top producers in Wisconsin last
year. Charles and Claire Ylitalo averaged 25,803 pounds of milk from
their 44 cows, according to University of Wisconsin dairy scientist
W.T. Howard. "We are not aware of a higher producing grazing herd
in Wisconsin," Howard told AGRI VIEW. The cows graze from May to
October but their feed is supplemented with corn and concentrate
during the pasturing season. Howard said their secret lies in a Total
Mixed Ration (TMR), which all seven top producers relied on. "There
is a nutritional advantage of blending everything together."
An Iowa farmer said his switch to grazing required a lot of thought
and careful planning. Dave Lubben made the switch to grazing six
years ago. "We thought about MIG (Management-Intensive Grazing)
for a long time before we started. "It's worked real well for us." He
rotates his cows in a 12-acre paddock system, which is subdivided
into 30 smaller plots using "hot" tape. He sections off about a four
acre area every day, making sure a stream is always running
through the grazing area. The pasture is a blue
grass/bromegrass/white clover mix. Each paddock is given a rest
period of about 4-5 weeks. "This has allowed different types of grass
and legumes to propagate, such as timothy, birdsfoot trefoil and red
clover. All of this has come into the pasture naturally," he said.
Lubben also said grazing was profitable. "Grazing can hold its own
against corn. It's up to the producer to hold down his costs and make
Source: Sarah Muirhead, "BST Use in Pastoral Systems Possible With
Good Management," FEEDSTUFFS, December 12, 1994; Jane Fyksen,
"Feeding Skills, BGH Boost Production Averages of Top Herds," AGRI
VIEW, January 27, 1995; Jeff DeYoung, "Management-Intensive
Grazing Takes Planning," IOWA FARMER TODAY, February 4, 1995.
The Journal of Sustainable Agriculture and the Journal of Sustainable
Forestry are now available from the Haworth Press. Subscriptions
begin at $32 and $28.80 respectively. For further information,
contact Food Products Press, The Haworth Press, 10 Alice Street,
Binghamton, NY 13904, Tel: (800) 342-9678, Fax: (607) 722-6362.
Corporate Hog Update is a publication of Prairiefire Rural Action,
based in Des Moines, Iowa. The inaugural edition examines state and
local efforts aimed at stemming corporate concentration in the hog
industry; the increase in hog inventories and the resulting declining
prices. Subscriptions begin at $10.00. For more information, contact:
Prairiefire Rural Action, 550 11th Street, Suite 200, Des Moines, IA
The Bottom line on Agri-Chemical Issues is a DowElanco publication
which takes a look at sustainable agriculture from a chemical
manufacturers perspective. Also incorporated are the perspectives
of the land grant university system and environmental organizations.
For a copy of the publication, contact The Bottom Line, DowElanco,
9330 Zionsville Road, Indianapolis, IN 46268.
Cultivating Change, February 25-26, 1995, Ada, Ohio. FFI, contact:
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, P.O. Box 02234, Columbus,
OH 43209, Tel: (614) 294-Food.
Agriculture and the Environment: Issues and Options for the 1995
Farm Bill, March 9-10, 1995, Washington, D.C. FFI, contact: Soil and
Water Conservation Society, 7515 NE Ankeny Road, Ankeny, IA
50021, Tel: (800) The-Soil, Fax: (515) 289-1227.
Protecting Children and Families From Pesticides, March 17-20, 1995,
Alexandria, VA. FFI, contact: National Coalition Against the Misuse
of Pesticides, 701 E Street SE, Washington, D.C. 20003, Tel: (202)
543-5450, Fax: (202) 543-4791.
Sustainable Agriculture News is produced by the Institute for
Agriculture and Trade Policy and edited by Michelle Thom.
Electronic mail versions are available free of charge for subscribers.
For information about fax subscriptions contact: IATP, 1313 Fifth
Street SE, Suite 303, Minneapolis, MN 55414. For information on
subscribing to this and other IATP news bulletins, send e-mail to:
email@example.com. IATP provides contract research services to a
wide range of corporate and not-for-profit organizations. For more
information, contact Dale Wiehoff at 612-379-5980, or send email to: