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Inside The Beltway -- May 2000
Ag policy update from the Midwest Sustainable
Agriculture Working Group.
Jump down menu:
Crop Insurance Plus Conference
Ag Approps Report
New Organic Standards Board Members
Beginning Farmer Committee News
EPA on Pathogens in Groundwater
EPA Nutrient Criteria
CRP 20th Sign-up
EPA Nixes GE Plant Pesticide Petition
TMDL Joint Agreement
White House Food & Ag Biotech Initiatives
for On-Farm Commodity Storage
WORC Calls for Calls
Nominations Needed for REEE Advisory Board
Brief but Bueno!
for Community Food Projects & Rural Cooperative Research, New Info from SAN
and SARE, and More, More, More!
Previous editions of Inside the Beltway
the Beltway is Sustainable Farming Connection's online version of the Midwest
Sustainable Agriculture Working Group's Washington Report. We reproduce
it with MSAWG's permission. Do not reproduce or post to any electronic network
without specific permission. Contact Brad DeVries
firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
There's nothing quite like a big trade vote to remind you
just how this place works, as the big debate over Permanent
Normal Trade Relations, or PNTR, with China rages right
outside our window.
The apocryphal but highly believable
story back during the waning days before the NAFTA vote
was that National Airport was turning away private
aircraft, because its parking for private jets was full to
Just yesterday, I discovered a brand-new
way to gauge the importance of a given bill in boardrooms
around the country. In a short walk near the Senate and
House office buildings, I counted no fewer than a dozen
large black sedans including three completely obsequious
stretch limos parked in close proximity to their
legislators, drivers at the ready with cell phones
awaiting the call of battle.
In Washington, DC money does not just talk; it often babbles
incoherently. Exiting the Capitol South subway station the
last two days, I've been surrounded by gangs of perky
college-aged kids, well-scrubbed in their yellow pro-PNTR polo shirts, insisting
that I take one of their free 10-minute long-distance
cards with "The Right Call: YES on PNTR" superimposed over a waving
United States flag and stuck on a card that gives all the
reasons why rejecting PNTR might induce Alan Greenspan to
furrow his brow (more than usual, that is) and drop the
U.S. into the depths of depression, despair and '70s disco
It's hard to picture how this opulent offensive
might have even a slight impact on even a single undecided
vote, but maybe it's simply intended to show PNTR
opponents that the "pro" side has so much money
to burn on this thing that they can afford to be complete
In this great country, of course, there is no shortage
of folks willing to relieve the wealthy-but-dim of some of their lucre. As we
take this DC Report to press, we get the word that Senate
Majority Leader Trent Lott will postpone the Senate PNTR
vote until July, and that he can't guarantee the bill
won't be amended, which means a conference committee and
brand new votes in House and Senate.
This particular gravy train looks to
stay on track all and plumping up campaign contributions
and lobbyists' billable hours the way through the summer.
A fool and his money to mix our aphorisms are a man's
-- Brad DeVries
Crop Insurance Plus Conference
Every once in a while in the maelstrom of nonsense, confusion, and subterfuge that marks the disbursal of
large sums of money by Congress, there's a telling moment, usually unintentional. In the midst of the
confusion surrounding the Crop Insurance bill and just what other major legislation would or would not
be spliced onto it, CongressDailyAM served up the following wonderful headline: "GOP Moves Bankruptcy
Into Crop Bill." But wait, it gets even stranger.
On their last day before Memorial Day recess, both the House and Senate approved the combined $8.2
billion crop insurance reform bill and $7.1 billion emergency farm aid bill on July 25, with virtually no
opposition. The bill had gone to a hurriedly called conference committee the day before, following a week
of GOP-only staff conferencing. The emergency bill underwent no hearings, no subcommittee or committee
markups, and no public deliberations of any kind. The crop insurance bill, on the other hand, has been
working through more or less normal legislative process for over a year - though even it didn't have
a formal conference committee until the final moments when a take-it-or-leave package was put before the
members. The President has indicated he will sign the bill shortly.
There is a great deal to report, so to make it easier to read, we'll use paragraph headings, starting with
crop insurance issues and finishing with emergency aid provisions.
1. Crop Insurance - Agricultural Risk Protection Act
Basic Crop Insurance Package: The final crop insurance package includes nearly all of the
previously advertised items -- higher premium assistance levels (ranges from 38% to 67% subsidized)
with no limitations on the amount of subsidy per farm, inverted subsidies (e.g., higher subsides at
all levels of coverage but with the biggest increases at higher levels of coverage), continued catastrophic
(CAT) coverage at $100 per year with no limitation on the size of potential payouts, special production
history protection for producers suffering multiple disaster years, a new individual loss trigger rather
than area-based trigger for Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance (NAP), increased penalties for waste,
fraud, and abuse on the part of producers, agents, and loss adjusters, and a new directive for RMA to
pay companies for R&D related to new insurance products (including retroactive payments for earlier
Cost: The 5-year cost of the bill of the bill is $8.2 billion, essentially doubling the per year cost of
the program to over $3 billion per year.
Conservation Compliance: The SAC-supported Senate provision to re-link swampbuster, sodbuster, and
conservation compliance to crop and revenue insurance subsidies was deleted in the final bill. A mild
counterproposal by Senator Harkin, who sponsored the original Senate provision, to increase premium
assistance for producers who receive crop insurance subsidies, are not currently subject to conservation
compliance, and who voluntarily adopt conservation compliance plans, was also shot down. Senate Chairman
Lugar, who is often considered the father of the original conservation compliance provisions, did
little to help retain the Senate provision, and the rest of the Senate committee members on both sides of
the aisle seemed anxious to jettison the provision, especially in the face of near unanimous opposition
from the House conferees. Conservation, wildlife, and environmental organizations also did little to engage
on the issue, though a letter of support was sent by SAC, National Audubon, Defenders of Wildlife,
Environmental Defense, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Natural Resources Defense
Council, and Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Sustainable and Organic Practices: SAC-backed language contained in both bills expanding the
understanding of "good farming practices" for crop loss purposes to include scientifically sound
sustainable and organic practices was retained in the final bill. Additional language was added to allow
producers who dispute a "good farming practices" determination to go through an informal
administrative review process and/or proceed to judicial review, but disallow consideration of the
complaint through the National Appeals Division of USDA.
Whole Farm Revenue Insurance Coverage: The final bill retains expanded general authority for revenue
insurance pilots, as well as specific, discretionary language for whole farm coverage. Pilots may be on a
regional, state, or national basis, and may operate for four years, or longer at the discretion of
FCIC. The bill also includes specific authorization of small pilot program for livestock coverage. The new
bill improves, but does nothing to guarantee, chances for whole farm coverage being offered nationally or
at least in many more regions of the country.
Risk Management Assistance Payments: The original Senate provision for $500 million of optional risk
management payments in lieu of insurance to support a wide variety of risk reduction strategies was
whittled down in the final bill to just $10 million per year, to be offered in 10-15 states that have
historically low participation rates in the crop insurance program (e.g., New England, eastern Corn
Belt, fruit and vegetable areas). The payments will be available as cost share for building irrigation
structures, planting trees for erosion reduction or water quality purposes, implementing diversification
and conservation strategies (including IPM and organic transition), and buying future/hedging/options contracts. Precisely how USDA
will implement this remains to be seen. SAC will be developing an implementation proposal.
Risk Management Outreach and Education: The bill provides $5 million per year for RMA to operate an
education and information program in states with low levels of crop insurance participation and
underserved producers and $5 million per year for CSREES to run a competitive grants program for risk
management education, which may include (based on SAC-backed language) production diversification and
farm resources risk reduction as well as futures and
trade options, forward contracting, crop insurance, etc.
Dairy Options Pilot Program: The bill expands the dairy options pilot program from 100 to 300 counties.
2. Emergency Farm Assistance Bill
Basic Emergency Aid Package: Slightly more than $5.5 billion of the $7.1 billion emergency bill is spent
on doubling AMTA (AKA Freedom to Farm) payments for 2000 at their 1999 levels. (Doubling the 2000 levels
would have resulted in smaller payments than last year since under the 1996 farm bill payment amounts
were intended to go down each year.) The bill continues to double the basic AMTA payment limitation
of $80,000, allowing payments of up to $160,000 per farm, not counting legal loopholes that can push it
higher. However, in a change from last year's emergency supplemental, the $150,000 limit on loan
deficiency payments and marketing loan gains is not doubled. Nonetheless, given USDA's decision early
this year to implement commodity certificates, the issue of limitations on loan payments is essentially
moot - the sky's the limit.
Other commodity support in the package includes $500 million for payments to soybean and other oilseed
producers (up from $475 million in 1999), $100 million for payments to cottonseed producers (up from
$85 million) $340 million for payments to tobacco growers (up from $328 million), $47 million for
peanut producers, and $302 million for fruit and vegetable assistance, including $200 million for
government purchase of surplus crops. The package also includes a partial, temporary restoration of the
honey, and wool and mohair programs.
Special LDP Grazing Provision: The bill allows producers to graze wheat, barley or oats and still
receive loan deficiency payments, starting in 2001. While small step in the right toward decoupling
LDPs, this special allowance was not applied to feed grains, much less to conversions to grass and forage.
Conservation: After two years in which no conservation money was added to the emergency
spending bill, the fire wall has finally come down, if only a little. The bill provides $10 million for
the Farmland Protection Program, along with helpful language allowing private nonprofits to hold
easements in states without farmland protection programs. It also provides $40 million in
conservation cost share and incentives payments, presumably through EQIP. Unfortunately, the language
prohibits any of the money to go to EQIP priority areas and prohibits NRCS from using any of the funds
for technical assistance. Bad report language explaining the provision also notes "The Managers
believe many water quality concerns can be handled without the time-consuming and expensive development
and writing of whole farm plans. One or two practices properly completed are the best conservation."
The other part of the conservation story is what is not in the bill. The SAC office was at the center of
an effort by conservation groups to secure funding for the Wetlands Reserve Program for 2001 through
this emergency bill. Some 15 national groups indicated to Congress that this was the top priority
for conservation spending within the emergency bill. Senator Harkin proposed an amendment to add $40
million for WRP, but it was rejected by the conferees. There is still one more bite at the apple
in the final deliberations over the ag appropriations bill, but finding an offset within that bill will be
Value-Added Market Development Grants: The bill includes $10 million for grants (up to $500,000 each)
to independent producers to develop business plans, strategies, and alliances for marketing value-added
agricultural commodities or products, plus $5 million for establishment of a resource center with
electronic capabilities to coordinate information on value-added opportunities. Senator Grassley, who
afterwards accused the American Meat Institute of lobbying against the effort and successfully getting
it knocked down from $35 million, sponsored the provision.
Research: Before the emergency bill stopped spending money, it became a mini-appropriations bill, with
members of the Ag Committees who were unsuccessful in getting all the special earmarks they wanted in
appropriations adding the orphan items to the emergency bill. The winners included Kansas State
with $15 million for carbon sequestration research, to be shared with a consortium of other land grants,
North Carolina State with $3 million for GMO tobacco/cancer vaccine research, University of
Nebraska with $10 million for buildings and facilities (a particularly surprising earmark since
ag appropriations bills have not funded new buildings and facilities for some years now), and Southern
Illinois University with $14 million for corn-based ethanol research. The bill also includes $5 million
for livestock and poultry associations and related foundations to improve environmental performance of
animal waste storage systems, presumably aimed at America's Clean Water Foundation and its
collaboration with NPPC on "environmental assessment," which will now expand to include
Farm Credit and Beginning Farmers: The bill suspends through 2002 the graduation provisions in existing
law that limits FSA borrowers to 7 years of direct operating loans and 15 years of direct and guaranteed
loans combined. In doing so, it nonetheless preserves a priority for lending to beginning farmers, but the
technical drafting of the provision may cause problems in the administration of beginning farmer
lending. It is undergoing further program and legal review at the Department.
County Offices: The bill suspends, through June 2001, any further consolidation of county offices.
Biomass Research and Development: The bill includes a new authorization for a biomass research and
development program, originally sponsored by Chairman Lugar and passed in the Senate as S 935, to promote
the production of bio-based industrial products, including co-production of food and industrial
products, from agricultural, forestry, and municipal biomass sources.
Ag Appropriations: Forward Motion
In unprecedented fashion, the House and Senate Ag Appropriations subcommittees marked up their FY 2001
bills on the same day in early May. There was much to celebrate in both bills on our sustainable
agriculture research, marketing, and rural development priorities, though with causes for
concern on the conservation and credit fronts. More than a little confusion reigned as the bills moved
toward floor action the week prior to Memorial Day recess. Several very substantial conflicts, most
unrelated to funding levels, prevented floor action, which will now be put off until after the one-week
Memorial Day recess. As a result, conference committee is off until later in June or July.
First to the good news. Congratulations to all of you - particularly our "key state and district" folk on
appropriations - for your continuing work to educate Congress on the importance of our programs! It paid
off the last few years as we maintained funding in the face of major budget cuts. Now, with some extra
money in the till (though precious little for domestic discretionary programs), some of our top
priorities are among the programs receiving long-awaited increases, as follows:
- The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program received a $1 million and $2.2 million
increase in the House and Senate bills, respectively, above the existing $11.3 million.
- The Senate bill increases Integrated Farming Systems funding in Wisconsin from $0.5 to $0.8
million; this item traditionally is only in the Senate bill, so no funding in the House is not
alarming. However, a request for a new IFS Upper Mississippi partnership project was not funded; we
will seek a floor amendment.
- The House bill includes $1 million for a new "organic transition program" to spur marketing of
- The House bill increases ATTRA and Rural Coop Development grants by $0.5 million each, while the
Senate bill increases coop grants by $2 million without an increase for ATTRA. (In conference, we
hope to secure the House level for ATTRA ($2 million), plus a $1.5 million increase for coop
grants for a total of $5.5 million.)
- The House bill increases the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program for small farm and
sustainable agriculture grants from $1.2 million to $1.5 million.
- Both bills include about $1 million for implementation of the National Organic Program, plus
$639,000 to cover first round accreditation fees for certification organizations.
- The Senate bill increases the Farmers Market Nutrition Program from $15 million to $20 million.
- The House bill increases the Resource Conservation and Development program by $5.7 million to $41
million, compared to a $1 million increase in the Senate bill.
- Both bills increase Rural Business Enterprise grants by $3 million to $40.7 million and
Rural Business Opportunity grants by $4.5 million to $8 million.
In a major point of disagreement, the Senate bill, while prohibiting USDA from using FY 01 money in FY
01 for the $120 million per year Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems and the $60
million Fund for Rural America, would nonetheless allow USDA to spend FY 00 money (same amounts) in FY
01, FY 01 money in FY 02, and so on. This sleight of hand provides the appropriators with a large pool of
funds to transfer to other programs, yet allows USDA to continue programming the money on a one-year time
lag. The House bill, on the other hand, closes this loophole and would thus shut down both the Initiative
and the Fund. This will likely be a major bone of contention in conference deliberations.
Conservation program spending was given status quo treatment in both bills. Money for EQIP remains
frozen at $174 million and no new funding was provided for the Wetlands Reserve Program - which
will be down to just 40,000 acres remaining in its authorized level of 975,000 in FY 01 - or Farmland
Protection Program - which as you will recall used all of its authorized funding in FY 96 and 97. The
general NRCS conservation operations budget did go up - by $16 million to $677 million in the House bill
and by $54 million to $714 million in the Senate bill. (For other conservation funding action, see the
story on the crop insurance/emergency farm aid bill above.)
The conservation program news grew worse as the House bill was readied, and then withdrawn, from floor
action. In order to offset emergency disaster funding for apple and potato growers, the House Rules
Committee gave its approval to using all that was left of WRP funding, plus some rural development
funds, to pay for the disaster payments. We will be working during the recess to get this raid on WRP
stripped from the rule.
In report language, the Senate bill includes important direction to USDA to maintain its
commitment to at least 4 million acres for CRP buffer enrollments through the continuous sign-up and CREP.
The language also urges USDA to provide CRP bonus payments to contour grass strips and cross field wind
traps. The Senate bill also provides legislative authority for NRCS to sign non-competitive
cooperative agreements with public or private entities or individuals to help carry out the Grazing
Lands Conservation Initiative or any other NRCS program or objective.
On the farm credit front, the picture is mixed. Neither bill maintains level funding with FY 00,
despite the continuation of low prices and financial pressure. Worse, as interest rates climb, the money
that is appropriated will actually support fewer loans than projected. That said, the House bill is
much better than the Senate, with funding at the levels requested by USDA. The House bill, for
instance, would provide $128 million in direct farm ownership loans and $700 million in direct operating
loans, compared to $128 million and just $500 million in the Senate, and $178 million and $935 million in
FY 00. It would appear either an emergency supplemental appropriation will be enacted later this
year or early next year, or large numbers of farmers will not be getting direct or guaranteed loans next
year. We will continue to highlight the problem to Congress and work for a supplemental fix at the
earliest date possible.
SAC has led an effort to reverse last year's emergency supplemental sneak attack provision,
sponsored by Senator Roberts, that eliminated sodbusting prohibitions on CRP beneficiaries. The
corrective language is expected to be offered by Senator Kohl during the ag appropriations process
In March of this year, FSA sent out notices to all CRP participants, notifying them of their new right
to sodbust without losing CRP benefits. Early reports from Texas, Colorado and other Plains and Mountain
states indicate that they are being taken up on the offer.
One reason for the new commodity production is the ability of the landowner to plant a crop for a few
years and then have marginal, highly erodible cropland eligible for a new CRP contract. The
original supersodbuster provision was enacted in the 1990 farm bill precisely to prevent this abuse of the
system. With new language in the emergency part of the crop insurance bill allowing landowners without
AMTA contracts to nonetheless collect LDP payments, it becomes the near perfect scam - break out new
land, collect commodity payments, and then enroll in CRP, all at taxpayer's expense. With 7 million acres
of highly erodible rangeland designated as having "high potential" to convert to commodity production,
the potential environmental devastation is quite significant.
Shockingly, on May 15, just as the appropriations bills were being readied for possible floor action,
USDA Secretary Dan Glickman wrote to Senate Ag Appropriations in support of last year's repeal of
supersodbuster, stating in part that it was fully consistent with the conservation objectives of the
program. SAC, The Environmental Working Group, Environmental Defense, National Audubon, Defenders of
Wildlife, Sierra Club Ag Committee, and NRDC sent a letter of protest on May 16. We've not yet received a
formal response. Final resolution of the issue awaits possible action on the Senate floor on the
New Organic Standards Board Members
The USDA announced five new members to the National Organic Standards Board, all of whom hopefully know
just what they heck they're in for! The new members are: Owusu A. Bandele, Baton Rouge, LA (Organic
Farmer); T. Mark King, Indianapolis, IN (Retailer); Kim M. Burton, Chico, CA (Organic Handler; works for
Smucker's and serves on the Organic Trade Association's processing task force); William
Lockeretz, Brookline, MA (Environmentalist, Tufts University and long associated with the Wallace
Institute) and Rebecca J. Goldburg Montclair, NJ (Environmentalist, GMO and aquaculture scientist at
Environmental Defense in New York).
Beginning Farmer Committee News
The USDA Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers held its second meeting April 11-12 in
Kansas City. The well-attended meeting resulted in a letter to be sent to the Secretary of Agriculture
with 18 recommendations, including:
- Increase FY 01 budget requests for FSA farm loan programs to the FY 00 levels to reflect expected
demand in light of continuing economic downturn.
- Support HR 1810 and S 1038 to remove aggie bonds from existing state volume caps on industrial revenue
- Allocate funds for a survey of users and administrators of existing beginning farmer programs.
- Add questions to the annual NASS farmer survey regarding beginning farmers and farm entry and
- Develop a legislative proposal to make the existing federal-state beginning farmer partnership more
flexible and more attractive to states.
- Undertake a comprehensive review of the borrower training program, including the issue of waivers,
cost, and number/location of vendors.
- Consider development of a legislative proposal to lengthen the repayment period for the FSA portion of
beginning farmer down payment loans.
EPA on Pathogens in Groundwater
The Environmental Protection Agency has issued for public comment a proposed rule, under the Safe
Drinking Water Act, which provides for the protection of ground water sources of drinking water which are
at high risk for contamination from bacteria and viruses. Federal Register, Vol. 65 at p.30192 (May
10, 2000). The proposed rule specifies requirements for monitoring and disinfection of ground water used
in public drinking water systems and addresses other measures for protecting ground water sources of
public drinking water. The EPA must receive comments on the proposed rule on or before July 10, 2000. The
EPA has posted the proposed rule, a Question and Answer Fact Sheet and a 274-page regulatory impact
analysis of the proposed rule on the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water website at
Historically, public health authorities considered ground water that is not under the direct influence
of surface water to be relatively free of microbial contamination. The Center for Disease Control data,
however, indicates at least 318 waterborne disease outbreaks associated with ground water systems
between 1971 and 1996. Viral and bacterial pathogens present in human and animal feces can contaminate
ground water sources through failed septic systems, leaking sewer lines, leaking distribution systems,
and when land applied passage through soil and cracks in the ground. The proposed EPA Ground Water
Rule is intended to provide for increased monitoring, prevention, inactivation, and removal of bacterial
and viral contaminants from ground water.
In light of growing evidence that ground water contamination may be associated with mishandling of
factory farm animal waste, the SAC office is currently examining the proposed rule to determine
whether it is appropriate for SAC to submit comments. Please contact Martha Noble at (202) 547-5754 or by
e-mail at email@example.com if your organization wants
more information about the rule or is considering submitting comments on the rule.
EPA Nutrient Criteria
The EPA has released the Nutrient Criteria Technical Guidance Manual: Lakes and Streams (First Edition),
the first in a series of technical guidance manuals intended to be used by the States and Tribes as the
basis for developing state and tribal water quality standards for nutrients, i.e. nitrogen and
phosphorus. Federal Register, Vol. 65 at p. 33322 (May 23, 2000). The manual is available on the EPA
website at http://www.epa.gov/OST/standards/nutrient.html. The manual may also be
requested from EPA's Water Resource Center by phone: (202) 260-7786 or by e-mail:
In addition to the outlining the process for establishing water quality standards for nutrients,
the manual contains chapters describing data models and management options to protect or restore lake and
reservoir resources. The EPA is inviting the public to review the manual and provide scientific views on
the guidance. Comments should be submitted to the EPA by July 24, 2000 and should be sent by mail to
Robert Cantilli (MC-4304), U.S. EPA, Ariel Rios Building, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington D.C.
20460 or by e-mail: OW-General@epa.gov.
CRP 20th Sign-up
On May 19. 2000, Vice-President Gore, who's getting a whole lot of sugar-daddy practice lately, made the
announcement that the USDA will enroll about 2.46 million acres of farmland under the 20th CRP sign-up.
These contracts will be effective as of October 1, 2000. About 3.5 million acres were offered for the
program, with USDA accepting 39,508 of the 56,093 offers made for enrollment. Montana, with 263,629
acres of acceptable acreage, tops the list of states, followed by Texas, Washington, North Dakota, Iowa,
and Kansas, where accepted acreage ranges between 150,000 and 200,000 acres. Over 42 percent of
producers submitted offers below the maximum acceptable rental rate in order to enhance their
By October 1, 2000, with the 2.46 million acres from the 20th sign-up included, total CRP enrollment will
be at least 33.5 million acres, with about 1 million acres in continuous sign-up CRP and 56,000 acres
enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). With the about 1 million acres
currently in continuos CRP or CREP and with the USDA having indicated that some 3.1 million acres of CRP
are currently reserved for future enrollment of practices covered by the continuous sign-up CRP and
the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, the USDA appears to be holding to its commitment to keep
a total of 4 million acres (out of the 36.4 million acre cap) available for the CRP buffer initiative.
As we noted in the April MSAWG D.C. Report, USDA recently established an incentives program for the
continuous CRP sign-up, effective April 6, 2000. SAWG organizations working with producers on buffer
enrollments should redouble their efforts given the new extra incentives, and the few acres left to be
enrolled. The clock is definitely ticking!
EPA Nixes GE Plant Pesticide Petition
On April 19, 2000, the EPA denied a petition requesting that EPA cancel registrations of Bt crops,
which the agency regulates under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
Greenpeace, the Center for Food Safety, the International Federation of Organic Agricultural
Movements and over seventy U.S. organic farmers, environmentalists and farming organizations, filed
the petition. In its response to the petition, EPA said that it is not aware of any adverse
environmental effects on the environment, including effects on non-target species such as the Monarch
The agency also concluded that its current policy for managing Bt resistance in pest
populations is adequate and that it is unlikely that Bt genes will move from crops to weedy relatives.
The agency also rejected claims that Bt toxins exuded from plants or in residues could have adverse effects
on soil ecology.
The EPA was required to respond to the petition under court order in a lawsuit filed by the petitioners.
The petitioners have 30 days to assess EPA's response and decide whether to amend the complaint in the
TMDL Joint Agreement
On May 1, 2000, the EPA issued a joint statement with the USDA on Agricultural and Silvicultural Issues
Within EPA Revisions to TMDL and NPDES Rules. The statement is posted on the web at
www.epa.gov/owow/tmdl/tmdlwhit.html. With regard to
the NDPES permits for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), the statement provides that
"agricultural stormwater discharges" are exempt from NPDES permits requirements. This provision appears
to contradict recent court decisions on the scope of regulation of CAFO waste under the Clean Water Act.
In addition, because EPA has failed to provide the public with a clear definition of what constitutes
agricultural stormwater discharges, this provision leaves a gaping hole in EPA guidance on CAFO NPDES
Note also that NRCS State Conservationists are in the process of revising state nutrient management policy
and that some states may be moving forward with Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan provisions in
advance of the finalization of guidance from NRCS National Headquarters. Here at SAC, we are trying to
track nutrient management developments at the state level. We would like to hear from those of you
working on these issues, especially those of you on NRCS State Technical Committees. Please contact
Martha Noble at the SAC office, by phone (202) 547-5754 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
White House Food & Ag Biotech Initiatives
On May 3, 2000, the Clinton administration announced numerous Food & Agricultural Biotechnology
Initiatives. Details of the initiatives are posted on the web at www.usda.gov/special/biotech.htm.
Food and Drug Administration actions under the initiative include publishing a proposed rule under
which developers of bioengineered foods and animal feeds must notify the agency of the intent to market
a food or animal feed from a bioengineered plant at least 120 days before marketing. The proposed rule
will require that specific information be submitted to allow the agency to determine whether the foods or
animal feeds pose any potential safety, labeling, or adulteration issues. The proposed rule will also
authorize the FDA to make public, consistent with applicable disclosure laws, the submitted information
and the agency's conclusions, by posting them on the FDA website.
The FDA also announced that it will not require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Instead, the agency will prepare for public comment a draft guidance to assist manufacturers who wish to
voluntarily label foods as being made with or without the use of bioengineered ingredients. The agency did
not rule on proposals to label bioengineered, Roundup-Ready consumers.
USDA announced that the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration is initiating a procedure
to accredit laboratories that are testing grains for the presence of genetically engineered grain. GIPSA
will also be evaluating test kits for evaluating the presence of genetically engineered grain against the
manufacturer's performance specifications. USDA also announced that it will issue an advanced notice of
proposed rulemaking this summer to solicit public comment on other steps to differentiate non-bioengineered commodities to better meet the needs of
The administration also announced that the Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Science and
Technology Policy will conduct a 6-month interagency assessment of federal environmental regulations
concerning agricultural biotechnology and make recommendations, if appropriate, to improve them.
With regard to public relations and international trade, USDA, EPA, FDA, and the State Department will
enhance domestic and foreign public education and outreach activities to improve the understanding of
the nature and strength of U.S. regulatory processes.
Loans for On-Farm Commodity Storage
USDA Secretary Glickman announced on May 9, 2000, that the USDA is establishing a program to make
seven-year, low interest loans to farmers to build or upgrade storage and handling facilities for
commodities including wheat, rice, soybeans, sunflower seeds, canola, rapeseed, safflower,
flaxseed, mustard seed, crambe, other oilseeds to be announced, corn, grain, sorghum, oats, and barley.
Loans may cover up to 75 percent of the net cost of the needed storage or handling equipment, up to an
amount of $100,000. Borrowers are limited to one loan per fiscal year. Farmers may begin filing
applications on May 30, 2000. USDA will publish regulations for the program in the Federal Register
during the week of May 8 and take comments for 30 days. The Farm Service Agency has posted a fact
sheet for the Farm Storage Facility Loan Program on its website at www.fsa.usda.gov/pas/news/releases/2000/05/1499.htm.
WORC Calls for Calls
The Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) is urging supporters to contact USDA Secretary Dan
Glickman, as well as U.S. Senators and Representatives in support of the WORC petition to
the USDA to curb the practice of captive supplies in livestock markets. Packer-owned livestock, or
captive supplies, serve primarily to depress the prices offered to independent producers in the open
market. For more information, check out http://www.worc.org/issues.html#meat.
Nominations Needed for REEE Advisory Board
The USDA is seeking nominations for 10 of the 30 members of the National Agricultural Research,
Extension, Education and Economics Advisory Board, as created by the 1996 Farm Bill. The advisory board
reviews the policies, work and future plans of USDA's research, extension, education, and economics
functions. The Sustainable Agriculture Coalition would like to help coordinate and promote a slate of
good candidates for this board, so if this sounds like fun to you, seek caring, professional help
immediately, but not before you call us here at the Coalition at (202) 547-5754, or E-mail Ferd Hoefner
The open positions include: livestock producer, national farm organization, commodity organization,
social scientist, processor, and international development specialist.
Community Food Projects RFP
The USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) has announced a request
for proposals (RFP) for FY2000 Community Food Project (CFP) grants. The program has $2.4 million available
in FY2000. USDA must receive proposals on or before June 29, 2000. The RFP is published in the Federal
Register, Vol. 65 at p. 31373-31383 (May 17, 2000) and is also posted on the CSREES website at
forms will also be posted at this website. For further information, contact Dr. Elizabeth
Tuckermanty by phone at (202) 205-0241 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
In addition to requesting proposals for Community Food Project grants, the CSREES announcement is also
requesting proposals for Technical and Training Assistance Grants from organizations that can assist
CFP applicants, on a regional or nationwide basis, in the following areas: understanding the CFP grant
application process; understanding the goals of the CFP program; developing the information necessary to
support a CFP grant such as assessment of food security needs and appraisal of existing community
assets pertaining to food security; food security coalition building; project development; and fund
raising. Funds for these grants are to be awarded in FY2000 for projects that will assist grant applicants
in future fiscal years. Up to $250,000 of the CFP funds will be available for Technical and Training
The CSREES is also soliciting stakeholder comments from any interested party regarding the FY2000 CFP
grants program, for use in development of any future requests for proposals for the program. Submit
written comments by November 17, 2000 by mail to Policy and Program Liaison Staff, Office of
Extramural Programs, USDA-CSREES, STOP 2299, 1400 Independence Ave., Washington, D.C. 20250-2299; or by
e-mail to RFP-OEP@reeusda.gov. Refer specifically to
the Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program RFP for FY2000 in your comments.
The SAC office also recommends that you check out a guide to CFP grant preparation that the Community
Food Security Coalition has posted on its website under publications at www.foodsecurity.org. Contact
Martha Noble at SAC, phone (202) 547-5754 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have difficulty obtaining
forms or have additional questions about the CFP program.
Rural Cooperative Research RFP
The USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service has announced a request for proposals from non-profit
organizations and institutions of higher education interested in applying for competitively awarded
cooperative agreements for research related to agricultural and non-agricultural rural cooperatives.
Federal Register, Vol. 65 at p. 30051 (May 10, 2000). The agency has $300,000 in FY2000 funds for the
program and is seeking proposals focusing on numerous issues such as the evaluation of cooperatives' roles
in the market structure for food and fiber, as well as governance and control issues. Applications must
be postmarked no later than June 20, 2000. Application forms are posted on the web at
www.usda.gov/rbs/coops/rrcop.htm. Forms may also
be requested by calling (202) 690-0368 or faxing (202) 690-2723. For further information, contact
Dr. Thomas H. Stafford, Director, Cooperative Marketing Division, Rural Business-Cooperative
Service by phone at (202) 690-0368.
New Info from SAN and SARE
The latest marketing guide from the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) is available on
the web at www.sare.org/san/market99/index.htm
and includes real-life stories and practical tips on marketing agricultural products through alternative
channels, such as farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) arrangements, restaurant
sales, and other methods.
SARE just issued a boffo new 20-page booklet "A Whole-Farm Approach to Managing Pests," which reviews
pest-management strategies that incorporate cover cropping, attraction of beneficial insects, and other
methods to reduce insect, weed, and other pest pressures as a part of integrated cropping systems.
Look for more information at www.sare.org/san/htdocs/pubs/.
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