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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):
House & Senate Ag Appropriations Brawl
FRA Center Grants
Ag Research Bill out of Penalty Box
SARE Operations Committee
Nutrient Management Plan
NRCS gets 2 Minutes for Roughing on CFO
Environmental Working Group Report
EPA Tours Hockey Country, MN & IA Hog Farms
Senate Livestock Marketing Hearings
Senate Pfiesteria/Dead Zone Hearings
USDA Direct Marketing
Pork Petition Hip-checks NPPC
"Big River Week" on Power Play
Consent Decree Ices Hudson Foods
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.
Appropriations 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
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.
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
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.
FRA 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
email@example.com. 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.
Research 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.
SARE 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
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
Nutrient 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
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.
Conservation 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:
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.
Food 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.
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
EWG 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.
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.
EPA "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,
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
- Land application of animal waste from large-scale, intensive hog CAFOs may
require continuous, intensive crop production on fragile soils, which is not a
- 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
Senate 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.
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.
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
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.
Senate 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
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.
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.
USDA 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.
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
Pork 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
"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
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.
Hudson 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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
Previous editions of Inside the Beltway
©1998 Committee for
Sustainable Farm Publishing
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