>>> Ed Michalson <EMICHALSON@marvin.csrv.uidaho.edu>
08/29/95 02:12pm >>>
After reading Tom's reply, I find that I have to agree with his remarks.
First, addressing nitrogen use is important because it is the largest
potential problem for farmers, both in terms of their personal water
supply, and the aggregate impacts on rural municipal water supplies. In
addition we need to be monitoring what is happening to pesticides in
these water supplies. Demonstration projects using precision farming
can indicate how safe the current farming practices are, and/or whether
additional action is needed to ensure both the safety of water supplies
and food production.
Second, the use of GPS and GIS technology may have great promise in
terms of reducing the usage of fertilizers and pesticides while additing to
the efficiency of the farming operation. One needs to remmber that
fertilizers and pesticides are scarce resources, and that they are also
becoming more expensive. The conventional farm machinery used to
fertilize and spray was designed to broadcast fertilizers and pesticides
on the whole field whether or not the crop needed it or not. Historically,
farmers have been brought up on the asprin rule, if one is adequate two
or more have to be better. The GPS and GIS technologies are the first
step in weaning them away from this type of thinking.
Further, let me say that with the industrialization of agriculture which is
being driven by many factors, not the least of which is government farm
policies, farmers need to know what actions are likely to be taken by
governmental agencies to control groundwater pollution. The reference
to the family farm in Tom's email is interesting in that we are not really
able to adequately define what a family farm is except in very general
term. This can be quickly borne out by looking at the USDA definition
of a family farm. As the technology changes and the size of farm
increases, a family can no longer operate an economically sized unit
without significant amounts of additional labor.
I hope that these demostration projects will be implemented, and that
what is learned from them will be used to develop policy positions that
we can discuss in the future.