Home Farm Policy Menu Inside The Beltway -- June 1998

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Inside The Beltway -- June 1998

Ag policy update from the Midwest Sustainable Agriculture Working Group.

Jump down menu (saluting the Washington Capitals Stanley Cup victory):

red ballHouse & Senate Ag Appropriations Brawl
red ballFRA Center Grants
red ballAg Research Bill out of Penalty Box
red ballSARE Operations Committee
red ballNutrient Management Plan
red ballNRCS gets 2 Minutes for Roughing on CFO
red ballFQPA Face-Off
red ballEnvironmental Working Group Report
red ballEPA Tours Hockey Country, MN & IA Hog Farms
red ballSenate Livestock Marketing Hearings
red ballSenate Pfiesteria/Dead Zone Hearings
red ballUSDA Direct Marketing
red ballPork Petition Hip-checks NPPC
red ball"Big River Week" on Power Play
red ballConsent Decree Ices Hudson Foods

red ballPrevious editions of Inside the Beltway

Inside 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 bdevries@cais.com for more information.

red ballAppropriations in Full Swing

As many of you know from panicked phone calls, the annual appropriations season has arrived. The House bill has been passed out of subcommittee and the Senate bill has been through both subcommittee and full committee, all this past week!

While the appropriations bill is theoretically all about discretionary spending, we are in big trouble on mandatory spending programs from the farm bill. Why? Because the discretionary budget keeps shrinking (with the notable exceptions of defense and highways!), so the appropriators dip into mandatory accounts to help solve their funding woes.

Leading the list of problems, the Fund for Rural America is wiped out completely in both the House and Senate bills. Absent a turnaround during Senate floor action, the Fund will be history. We are trying to gin up a Senate amendment, but nothing is solidified yet. While there are still some Senate champions left, to date there has been nary a whimper from USDA or the White House, despite their naming of the Fund as their principle farm bill accomplishment. This is making it difficult.

Next in the disaster line is the Conservation Farm Option. The Senate bill also wipes out funding for CFO. The House bill nearly did as well, but at the last minute, the chairman and his staff decided to add back funds for several conservation programs plus farm credit, nutrition, export assistance, and other accounts. This extra money to pay for these put-backs came from eliminating the funding for Senator Lugar's new research initiative ($120 million per year) in the just passed ag research bill.

While the House bill fully restores the $25 million to CFO, it at the same time eliminates the $20 million due in FY 99 for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), a program sponsored by Senator Cochran, chair of Senate Agriculture Appropriations. So, while welcome, the House CFO funding is anything but secure. A trade-off situation has been created that could still do in CFO. Therefore, we are trying to restore CFO funding in a Senate floor amendment, along with the Fund.

Elsewhere on the would-be mandatory conservation program front, the House bill cuts the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to $176 million, while the Senate leaves it alone at $200 million. Both bills cut from the Wetlands Reserve Program -- the House allows a 130,000-acre enrollment and the Senate 140,000 acres, compared to the Administration's 165,000 acres. The Farmland Protection Program has used all $35 million from the 1996 farm bill, but efforts, so far unsuccessful, continue to try to get more through the appropriations process. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was not touched in either bill, nor, needless to say, were Freedom to Farm (AMTA) payments.

So... what about discretionary programs you say. After all, isn't that what this bill is all about. Right, we almost forgot. Almost all of our priorities were level funded, including SARE (both parts) and ATTRA. The Senate bill does back USDA's request to increase the Farmers Market Nutrition Program to $15 million, but the House stays level at $12 million.

The direct farm credit figures contain good news and bad news. For annual direct operating loans, the House bill contains enough money for about $500 million in loans, the same amount the President (and Small Farm Commission) requested and the same as the farm bill authorization. The Senate went one better, however, and included funds for $560 million worth of loans. This amount is the same as available this year including the additional $70 million added by the recent emergency supplemental appropriation (see last issue). A minimum of 25% of operating loans are targeted to beginning farmers.

For direct farm ownership loans, 70% of which are targeted to beginning farmers, the news is not as bright. The House came up with $75 million, $10 million less than the authorization level and the President's and Small Farm Commission's request. The Senate did worse -- only $64 million. We are currently working out the details of a Senate floor amendment to try to bring this up close to $85 million.

Several of our report language initiatives were successful. Senator Leahy requested and got language in the Senate report directing USDA to implement the organic program with a progressive fee schedule and to set-aside funds for initial accreditation fees. The language also directs USDA to accept the NOSB's National List recommendations in the final rule.

On the Integrated Farming Systems program at ARS, Senator Kohl added language not only funding the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems project again ($500,000), but also directing ARS to establish four more interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder partnership projects in FY 99. This language opens up a new avenue to work with the agency in our efforts to get them back on track with their IFS plan of three years ago.

Also on the report language front, we were able to get language on IPM research and extension to force greater stakeholder and farmer involvement in all aspects of the program, part of a continuing attempt to get the regional IPM programs looking at least somewhat more like SARE. Credit goes to Representative Walsh and Senators Kohl and Harkin. Finally, Senator Kohl also obtained language to increase the accountability of NRCS on expenditures from funds appropriated for the grazing land initiative. In many Midwest and eastern states, the funds allocated for grazing have been redistributed elsewhere.

The House full committee mark-up occurs this week, with Senate floor action likely the week after. Most of our attention now is on a Senate floor amendment to restore funding for the Fund for Rural America and the Conservation Farm Option. If it goes, it will likely be part of a broader package that also includes funding for WIC and possibly farmland protection, food safety, and who knows what else. If this strategy requires grassroots action, we will be contacting all of you.

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red ballFRA Center Grants

The "center grant" panel met the first week of June to make its recommendations from among the 35 full proposals. With the Appropriators zeroing out the program the very next week, these best laid plans are more than a little bit up in the air right now.

Dr. Garth Youngberg (Wallace Institute) is a panel member. The final decisions must be blessed by the REEE Advisory Board at their summer meeting. The center grants will be funded out of FY 99 funds (should such things actually exist for the FRA), so awards will not be made until after October 1st. We expect funding for three or four centers, though there isn't yet a final number on the total amount of money available for these grants; the panel plans to spend $13-14 million on these projects, though a big goose egg in the appropriations bill would introduce those plans to an alternative reality.

For FY 99, there will not be any new request for planning grants or center grants. The RFP for the next round of standard grants is in process, but seems to be hitting some snags. The FRA staff sent a draft RFP up the chain of command back in late December, but it does not seem to be moving quickly. The original timetable -- RFP out this summer, panels this fall, REEE Advisory Board "stakeholder" review in November, awards by December 31 -- will probably be pushed back. How far probably depends on several factors if funding remains , decisions on dollar allocations within the Fund, how quickly other initiatives of the FY 99 Fund get put together, etc. Once the RFP is out, there will probably be at most a 60 day deadline, and that could shrink if delays continue.

The draft RFP has been described to us as substantively very similar to last year's, but streamlined and more user friendly. At this point, however, it does not appear the actual review process will differ much from the problematic first round, though final decisions have not been made. An appeal letter to the Department on the importance of relevancy review may be forthcoming. We'll let you know.

Despite the lack of decisions on the next RFP, prospective review panelists are nonetheless being contacted about tentative availability. We are putting together a list of people interested in serving on panels to forward to FRA staff -- with a promise this year they will use the list and contact many of our suggested panelists. If you have specific folks (researchers, farmers, others) who would be good and likely interested in serving, please send them ASAP to Kim Leval at kims@cfra.org. Include title, affiliation, phone, fax, email, and any other pertinent information you want to pass along. If you have contacted the person and verified willingness to serve, please indicate that in your message.

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red ballResearch Bill Clears Congress

Despite getting caught up in the grinder of Republican party infighting, the agriculture research conference report finally emerged unscathed from the House of Representatives and headed off to the White House for signature. The $1.9 billion bill authorizes ag research programs, along with $600 million for Sen. Lugar's new "Initiative for Future Food and Ag Systems," about $800 million for food stamps, $500 million for crop insurance, and $100 million for the Fund for Rural America.

The most contentious issue was the restoration of some food stamp eligibility for certain legal immigrants. Given the tenor of the debate, perhaps we should be thankful that no member in either body offered an amendment requiring all immigrants to sew large scarlet "I" symbols on all of their clothing, or worse.

Over the opposition of conservative Senators on the food stamp provision, the bill cleared that body by a lopsided 92-8 vote. In the House, however, the conference report languished for weeks as key members of the Republican caucus dug in their heels over the same issue. With crop insurance funds tapped out as of this month and research funds in limbo, farmers and farm-state universities began pushing their representatives with increasing urgency. It finally took the pleadings of farm-state Republicans to the House leadership, like Rep. Greg Ganske of Iowa, who told the Washington Post, "If this isn't taken care of in a week or two of us coming back from the Memorial Day recess, it will significantly expose vulnerable Republicans from the Midwest."

In the end, the bill survived an attempt to strip out the food stamp restoration language on the floor, and passed the House complete. As we go to press, we fully expect the President to sign the bill.

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red ballSARE Operations Committee

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Operations Committee held its semi-annual meeting in Washington on June 10 and 11. The Operations Committee brings together the national and regional SARE staff with representatives from NRCS, EPA and ARS and serves as the primary policy development forum for the program.

As always, the question of how to stay true to alternative agriculture while reaching the broadest possible audience with the limited budget available was at the heart of the discussion. This was the first OC meeting held since Jill Auburn became SARE Director in February and also the first since the Ten-Year Conference in Austin. The success of the Austin Conference - more than 400 people attended - reflects the continuing surge of interest in SARE.

The West, South and North East Regions combined to award 91 Producer grants in 1998 (North Central decisions are still pending). The four regions funded 47 Research and Education proposals. In addition, approximately one third of the money SARE awarded in 1998 went into Professional development grants for educational programs for field based Extension and NRCS staff and producers.

Based on preliminary indications of level funding for 1999, the OC explored ways SARE could do more while spending less. For several years, the program has sought to develop a policy for allocating funds to proposals submitted directly to the national office. Several of these projects, called National Initiatives, have received funding but SARE has typically relied on regional review panels in making awards. The OC agreed upon a format which will continue to allow it to fund National Initiatives but will also keep this initiative subordinate to the regional producer, research and education and professional development grants.

With the success the program has enjoyed working with producers as well as academics and a strong local/regional context, the OC wants to reserve National Initiative funding for truly outstanding projects. Participants discussed outreach needs for the program - is SARE getting the exposure it needs among the audience it most wants to reach? A new publication on cover crops is in print and the resources on Sanet keep expanding but the question of who to reach and how to do so is ever present.

Sustainable Agriculture Network Coordinator Andy Clark noted that Sanet will continue to look for ways to improve electronic outreach, but that they have stretched current resources about as far as possible. He also observed that over-reliance on electronic media can leave significant gaps in an effort to reach farmers and other target audiences.

The South Region will be looking for a new Coordinator when Rick Welsh leaves in July to work once again for the Wallace Institute in Washington.

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red ballNutrient Management Comment Extension

The NRCS has extended the period for commenting on the proposed revision of its nutrient management policy until July 22, 1998. As we reported in the May 1998 MSAWG Report, the revision is to the NRCS Agronomy Manual, which is then incorporated into NRCS' Conservation Practice Standards and Field Office Technical Guides. The proposed revision focuses on tightening the standards for land application of nutrients, especially with regard to phosphorus from animal waste.

We at SAC believe the proposed standard is too lax and could allow over-application of animal waste from CAFOs, with NRCS technical assistance and program funding, for at least another ten years. In addition, we have heard that it is the CAFO sector which has requested an extension of the comment period, suggesting that NRCS will soon be on the receiving end of a lot of bleating about too-strict standards on nutrient management.. The proposed revision was published in the April 22, 1998 issue of the Federal Register. Let us know if you wish to review the revised policy; we can send you a copy of the revised policy and of preliminary comments which SAC has submitted to the NRCS.

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red ballConservation Farm Option Proposals

While the appropriations bill puts next year's CFO allocation in jeopardy, USDA is finally getting around to implementing this year's $11 million. By the June 1 deadline, the Department received 120 proposals totaling over $50 million. Group proposals totaled 78, while 42 individual farmers submitted proposals. The regional distribution was very good -- 31 states in all, including most of the Midwest (8 of 12 states), south (10 of 13), and northeast (9 of 12), plus 4 western states.

For MSAWG states, the proposal summary looks like this:

State Group
Total Funding
Iowa 9 6 $4,717,413
Nebraska 3 4 $1,277,026
Minnesota 0 7 $773,000
Missouri 4 2 $4,303,450
Ohio 3 1 $735,700
Indiana 3 0 $1,841,175
Michigan 1 1 $561,700
Wisconsin 1 0 $300,000

Moving to the proposed rule, the Department received 32 sets of comments. Guessing, 90% of them (or more) are likely from MSAWG and Campaign groups. We will be reading through all of them as soon as possible to check on comments from groups outside our networks. The timeline for final rule and project awards calls for finishing before the end of July. We'll be getting weekly updates on the process, so check in with us periodically if you'd like to know what stage they are at.

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red ballFood Quality Protection Act

The first gathering of the USDA - EPA Tolerance Reassessment Advisory Committee (TRAC) turned out to be the tale of two meetings. The TRAC was established at the behest of Vice President Gore to insure that implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) be consistent with the principles of sound science in protecting public health, transparency of information and decision making, reasonable transition for agriculture and consultation with all interested parties.

Many farming organizations, commodity groups and pesticide manufacturers have questioned EPA's approach to handling the exposure and risk assessment issues addressed in FQPA. They are concerned that significant reductions in allowable pesticide residues on food (called tolerances) will result in the cancellation of registrations for many widely used compounds, especially among organophosphate and carbamate products.

The TRAC brings together agribusiness interests, representatives from environmental, consumer, farmworker organizations, academics and tribal, federal, state and local officials (52 people in all!) to advise EPA and the USDA on FQPA implementation. The meeting on May 28-29 was the first of four to be held this summer in Washington.

The biggest ripple on Day One of the meeting was caused by EPA Deputy Administrator Fred Hansen's statement that preliminary indications are that many registrations for organophosphates will exceed revised tolerances and will need to be discontinued. USDA Deputy Secretary Rominger, Co- Chair of the TRAC with Hansen, fundamentally concurred with this conclusion while trying to sound as supportive of producers as he could. The TRAC itself was largely silent the rest of the day as EPA staff briefed them on technical aspects of the work to date.

This silence, however, could hardly last a second day given the high stakes and many TRAC members rebelled first thing in the morning on Day Two. One by one, members took the floor to express their dissatisfaction with what they had heard the day before, their confusion with how EPA reached the positions it had and their conviction that implementing FQPA along these lines would be disastrous. Presentations from producers, processors, pesticide manufacturers and state regulators repeatedly stressed that EPA's conclusions were not based on sound science, were not representative of conditions in the field and would deprive farmers of many valuable products which are safely used at present.

Other TRAC members countered these arguments by emphasizing that replacing organophosphates is hardly a new idea and that FQPA is a powerful incentive to develop alternative management practices which have been undervalued for too long. There was ample tension in the room and much of it focused on how quickly EPA is moving on implementation (i.e., in line with the requirements of the statute) without opening up the rulemaking promise to notice and comment, and other avenues of delay.

The FPQA debate will continue to heat up in preparation for the next TRAC meeting on June 22-23. As one member put it, though, candor is much more important than consensus at this time and future developments should become clearer as more cards are placed on the table.

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red ballEWG Report "Same As It Ever Was"

The Environmental Working Group released it's overview of Clinton Administration promises and performance since the big pesticide use reduction initiative they kicked off in 1993. EWG declares itself shocked SHOCKED to find waffling, dissembling, and attempts to be all things to all people going on in the Clinton Administration.

As is apparent from the title of the report, little has come of what the administration billed as a "dramatic shift" and "watershed in the history of pesticide use," despite the powerful new tools available to the EPA under the Food Quality Protection Act. The report presents its findings that: pesticide use has increased since 1993; children's exposure to pesticides in food has not gone down; water supplies are still subject to pesticide contamination; EPA has taken only one pesticide off the market while approving a record number of new ones; and that the administration has stymied sustainable agriculture.

The report is available as a .PDF file at the EWG website at http://www.ewg.org, or for $20.00 plus $3 shipping & handling from EWG at (202) 667-6982.

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red ballEPA "Hog-Wild Tour '98"

What will those wacky, impulsive folks over at EPA think of next? Imagine actually wanting to see hog production while you're thinking of regs for the industry. Is that what they call "thinking outside the box?"

Three scientists from the U.S. EPA's Office of Water - Janet Goodwin, Paul Shriner, and Mike Clipper, spent the week of May 18 touring hog farms and factories in Iowa and Minnesota. These three folks will be involved in drafting the effluent guidelines and standards for NPDES permits regulating Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.

Their tour was initiated by an invitation from the National Pork Producers Council. The EPA scientists, however, wisely realized that an NPPC tour might be somewhat, shall we say, "limited" and they contacted the Clean Water Network and the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to help provide them with a more comprehensive picture of large-scale CAFOs and of less intensive hog production methods.

The EPA folks spent the first three days hosted by the NPPC tour during which they were assured that any existing and potential CAFO problems were all under control. The next two days were spent getting a more complete look at CAFO hog production and its effects on rural people and the environment.

Mark Schultz with the Land Stewardship Project organized a one- day tour of southern Minnesota, including a small plane flight over areas with high density hog production. Accompanied by farmers who are using sustainable hog production methods, the group toured sites in Martin County, including one 7-mile stretch of road lined by 102 large hog barns. Local citizens and experts discussed adverse changes to surface waters in the area after the establishment of large-scale confined production operations.

The tour then moved to Renville County where Julie Jansen and other community residents provided photos of the effects of a major animal waste spill and described the adverse effects of CAFOs on the community's air and water quality. The group also toured the Van Der Pol farm in Swift County where Jim and Leann Van Der Pol and their son Josh are raising hogs using hoop houses, pasture grazing for gilts, and deep-bedded straw for manure management. The Van Der Pols provided details on the positive economics of using environmentally sound production systems and manure management strategies. The evening included discussions of effluent guidelines and recommendations from sustainable farmers.

The next day the EPA tour moved back to Iowa, where John Crabtree of the Center for Rural Affairs had organized the day's events. In addition to John and farmers John Miller, Aaron Heley- Lehman and John Braun, the tour included Mark Honeyman (Iowa State animal scientist), Bob Libra (Iowa Geological Survey Bureau), Jim Gulliford (Iowa Division of Soil Conservation), and two attorneys from the Iowa Attorney General's office.

The morning portion of the tour took an academic turn with presentations from the Iowa scientists on vulnerabilities of ground and surface water and comparisons of the environmental effects of different agricultural production methods. Mark Honeyman discussed the economics of various-sized swine operations, emphasizing that large-scale CAFO production does not necessarily mean low-cost production in comparison with other smaller scale, non-confinement methods.

The afternoon included a trip to a sustainable farm with detours to see the DeCoster farms CAFO megasite and nearby sites where an aquifer has been contaminated by over-application of animal waste on land near drainage tiles. The tour then moved on to Wright County and another sustainable, non-CAFO farm. On the return to Ames, the EPA folks were shown the site where a 1.5 million gallon spill of animal waste through a tile line contaminated the South Fork Iowa River. The tour ended the day with a visit to Dick Thompson's farm and a picnic organized by the Practical Farmers of Iowa.

A few comments from EPA people during the tour:

  • Two of the three EPA scientists had never seen a hog operation before the tour.
  • Land application of animal waste from large-scale, intensive hog CAFOs may require continuous, intensive crop production on fragile soils, which is not a good practice.
  • They felt strongly that nutrient management for water quality protection should be based on phosphorus.
  • The plane tour in Minnesota demonstrated that CAFOs are developing quite intensively in certain rural areas, and the EPA folks were surprised to see how close many CAFOs were to surface waters.
  • EPA wants documentation of adverse effects of CAFOs, including pictures, air quality monitoring and water sampling - preferably by certified laboratories.
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red ballSenate Hearings on Livestock Marketing

The Senate Agriculture. Nutrition and Forestry Committee, chaired by Senator Lugar (IN) held a hearing on livestock marketing issues on June 10. The hearing focused on beef cattle, hog, and lamb production, including a discussion of record high levels of red meat supplies produced in the U.S. and other countries, competition with poultry for the consumer market, depression of the Asian export market, and the issue of "captive supply" of cattle through forward contracts and other marketing agreements with subsequent problems of price discovery for cattle producers. The increasing vertical integration of pork production was also addressed.

The primary witness was Keith Collins, USDA Chief Economist, who summarized the status of actions proposed in March by USDA Secretary Glickman in response to concerns raised by cattle and other livestock producers about concentration in the meat packing industry and the problem of price discovery.

First, Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) offices will be reduced from 11 offices to 3 regional offices. Each regional office would specialize in competition and industry issues nationwide for certain species; the Colorado office will deal with cattle and sheep; the Iowa office will handle hogs; and the Georgia office will handle poultry.

The plan includes strengthening enforcement against anticompetitive practices. Glickman's plan also included support for S. 16, the Cattle Industry Improvement Act of 1997, which provides for mandatory reporting of livestock price information. Collins, by no means an enthusiastic supporter of this proposal, stated that he was "agnostic" about concentration trends in hog production, called for separate approaches to deal with hog marketing, including voluntary price reporting on the NPPC website.

Lorin Moensch Jr., the representative of the American Sheep Industry Association, possibly the livestock producers in the most concentrated sector locally, noted that sheep producers have been on a price roller coaster for the last few years. Leland Swenson of the National Farmers Union called for increased mandatory price reporting and country of origin labeling.

The most impassioned witness was Herman Schumacher, a livestock marketing operator and member of the USDA Advisory Committee on Agriculture Concentration. He stated among other views that the NPPC is selling out small farmers, that the Packers and Stockyard Act is not being enforced, and that USDA is encouraging the creation of monopolies in the livestock processing and packing sectors.

Perhaps, the most quotable comments were those of Patrick Boyle, President of the American Meat Institute, who observed that "captive supply" was a regrettable term and that everyone would be much better off when the whole meat industry was vertically integrated. [Apparently he has not spoken to the Contract Poultry Growers Association lately].

In a related note, Secretary Glickman has not yet acted on a petition for rulemaking from the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC), which requests that USDA take action to restrict certain livestock procurement practices regarding forward contracting and packer feeding.

A packet of information on these issues provided by the Cattleman's Legal Fund was available at the hearing. USDA published the petition for rulemaking in the January 14, 1997 issue of the Federal Register, 62 Fed. Reg. 1845. In addition, USDA announced in April 1998 that its analysis of the petition and comments are available on the GIPSA website at http://www.usda.gov/gipsa/lateadd/lateadd.htm.

Better yet, find out more about the WORC rulemaking proposal and learn about how to stop captive supplies in the meat industry at their own web page: http://www.worc.org/. They've even included new graphics tracking captive supply levels, updated weekly. Very spiffy.

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red ballSenate Pfiesteria/Dead Zone Hearings

On May 28, 1998. the Subcommittee on Oceans and Fisheries of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing on the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and blooms of toxic microorganisms, particularly the dinoflagellate Pfiesteria.

These estuarine and oceanic problems appear related to agricultural nutrient runoff, municipal sewage treatment plant discharges, and other human land-based activities. The hearing, chaired by Senator Olympia Snowe (ME), focused on Senate Bill No. 1480, which authorizes appropriations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to conduct research, monitoring, education and management activities for the eradication and control of harmful algal blooms.

NOAA and U.S. EPA representatives testified, as did scientists investigating the issue. The scientists included Dr. JoAnn Burkholder of North Carolina State University, who first identified the Pfiesteria species apparently causing fish kills and human health problems in the mid-Atlantic region, and Dr. Nancy Rabalais of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, who is conducting studies on the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

All those who testified agreed that S. 1480 should be modified to provide explicit and separate funding for addressing the dead zone in the Gulf. We will keep you posted on how this bill and other measures to deal with these issues fare in the 105th Congress.

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red ballUSDA Direct Marketing

We have heard here at SAC that USDA is planning a listening/strategy session on direct marketing in July. No exact date has been not set yet. It will be hosted by Ass't Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Affairs Mike Dunn and Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Enrique Figueroa.

Some of the Farmers Market Nutrition Program folks here and around the country will likely attend. We don't know the full scope of who they are hoping will attend, but in any event it may be a good opportunity to start pressing some of our broader agenda on marketing issues. If you want to attend, call or e-mail Martha at mnoble@msawg.org.

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red ballPork Petition Progresses

The Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment, of which several MSAWG members are active participants, announced at the beginning of this month that the petition drive to repeal the mandatory pork checkoff had notched 4,200 signatures (now well over 5000) of the 21,000 needed to force a vote on the mandatory check-off. The June 1 announcement noted that the Campaign hit 20% of the required number of signatures in just the first month of organizing.

The petition drive has generated a notable buzz, with prominent play in the ag press on the eve of the World Pork Expo in Des Moines. One reporter noted that the Expo recruited a security team that looked like the Iowa State football team's offensive line, and was issuing instructions for dealing with demonstrators (mostly, "don't") from the podium. They found themselves all dressed up for a dance that never happened, however, as there was no CFF&E-organized protest at the Expo

For more information on the check-off petition drive, contact MSAWG/Campaign for Family Farms & Environment members National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Land Stewardship Project, or the Wisconsin Rural Development Center.

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red ball"Big River Week" & CW Net Confab

The first week of June brought the Clean Water Network's Feedlot Work Group and the Sierra Club's Big River activists from the Mississippi Ecoregion to D.C. to discuss the environmental and human health problems arising from CAFOs and to hear about federal and state proposals for dealing with issues. A lot of angry citizens from some 18 states told of the adverse effects of CAFOs on themselves and their communities and of their efforts to impose reasonable state regulations on CAFOs. Those speaking included MSAWGers Bill Wenzel, Debbie Neustadt, Jack Norman, Hank Graddy, and Bob Warrick. A panel of poultry contract growers from the Delmarva peninsula described their situation as chicken house janitors under contract with poultry integrators, living under a high debt load from flock to flock.

Representatives from the Clean Water Network summarized recommended strategies and comments on the U.S. EPA's Draft AFO Strategy and NRCS' proposed revision of its nutrient management policy. The Clean Water Network has asked SAC to take the lead on comments for the revised nutrient management policy and numerous copies of the proposed revision and SAC's comments were distributed at the meeting. The program included a presentation by Jeff Lape , the point person for the AFO strategy in EPA's Office of Water, on EPA's CAFO strategy, including some hints on the Joint EPA-USDA strategy currently under development.

According to SAC's own Martha Noble, his presentation indicated that EPA will need some strong prodding to prevent the agency from caving in to USDA on a number of issues. For example, the issue of whether EPA's animal unit definition or USDA's animal unit definition will apply to the definition of CAFO will probably not be resolved in the proposed Joint EPA-USDA strategy. Instead, EPA may reopen that issue in proposed changes to its CAFO regulations.

Another big issue is whether nutrient management plans for land application will be available for public review or will be confidential, even if the plans are part of an NPDES permit. EPA also appears to favor general permits, rather than individual permits for CAFOs, on the grounds that the backlog of CAFOs without permits or with inadequate permits is too great to provide for the issuance of individual permits. A general permit program for CAFOs under EPA's current procedures does not provide for adequate public notice or hearings. The EPA-USDA proposed Joint Strategy will be released for public comments sometime in July.

The Sierra Club portion of the meeting extended into the next week with a press conference at which the Club released a map illustrating the extent of the CAFO problem in the U.S. In addition, Martha organized meetings between Club representatives and NRCS personnel and with legislative aides for Senator Harkin (IA) and Representative Miller (CA), both of whom have introduced bills in Congress addressing CAFO regulation.

Many of the meeting's participants wanted more information on sustainable livestock production practices and on the relative economics of large-scale CAFO production versus sustainable production. We distributed numerous copies of the MSAWG livestock policy paper and the Center for Rural Affairs' report "Searching for Science", and also provided website information and phone numbers for the Center and ATTRA.

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red ballHudson Consent Decree

The CAFO D.C. confab included a presentation by a Chesapeake Bay Foundation representative about the case U.S. v. Hudson Foods, Inc. The U.S. Department of Justice has issued a notice that it is taking comments on a proposed consent decree in the case (U.S. v. Hudson Foods, Inc., Civil Action No. CCB-98-1468, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland).

The action was brought by the Justice Department on behalf of the EPA against Hudson Foods, Inc. (now part of Tyson Foods) for violations of the Clean Water Act arising at its poultry processing plant in Berlin, Maryland. The consent decree requires the company to pay a $4 million civil penalty and to provide denitrification equipment at four of its processing plants in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

In addition, the company is required to undertake Supplemental Environmental Projects which involve reducing pollution related to the animal feeding operations of poultry growers who have contracts with the company. These projects include:

  1. Adding the enzyme phytase to feed in company feed mills within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, an action intended to increase the chickens' ability to utilize phosphorus in the feed and lower phosphorus concentrations in poultry litter.
  2. Providing funding for all necessary staff and materials to assist their growers in the Delmarva peninsula with the preparation and implementation of nutrient management plans.
  3. Paying for the application of alum (aluminum sulfate) to poultry litter from approximately 100 broiler houses.

Alum reportedly binds phosphorus and metals such as copper, iron and zinc and thus reduces runoff of these substances, at least in the short-run. In addition, the company will also be required to construct poultry litter storage sheds at six company-owned farms.

The measures in the consent decree are not a panacea for the problems of large-scale CAFOs nor does the consent decree represent an admission by the vertical integrator that it is legally liable for animal waste pollution generated by the operations of its contract growers. It does, however, indicate that the Justice Department and EPA are making the link between vertical integrators and CAFO animal waste and understand the power of the integrator to make management decisions affecting the handling and disposal of the animal waste from CAFOs.

The Justice Department issued a notice that it is taking comments on the proposed consent decree until July 1, 1998, see 63 Federal Register 29753 (June 1, 1998). We at SAC have obtained a copy of the proposed consent decree from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and plan to submit comments. Let us know if you would like a copy of the proposed consent decree or a copy of SAC comments, which will be available by June 23.

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