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Inside The Beltway -- December '98
Ag policy update from the Midwest Sustainable
Agriculture Working Group.
Jump down menu:
Budget Rumors Fly
EPA/USDA Listening Sessions Are they?
EPA & NPPC Out of Smoke-Filled Room
Senate Shuffles A Committee Assignments
A Soundbite Safety Net
Land Grant Research Rules Expected
IFS Meeting Set for January
Small Farm Council Work
NRDC/Clean Water Net CAFO Horror Stories
Organic Comment Period Ticking Down
Upcoming Meetings See You There!
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
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Budget Rumors Fly
Ah, December! The month all the federal agencies are sweating bullets as
they file their appeals to the Office of Management and Budget's draft versions
of their budgets for the next fiscal year.
As we go to press, USDA
is sending its appeal to the White House in defense of what they have asked for
previously but OMB has denied. And while they twist in the wind, we try our
best to find out just what they are fighting over. So, what do we know? Not
nearly as much as we would like to know, but here goes.
There is a small farms budget initiative, but details are sketchy.
The direct farm credit budget appears to be in decent shape. Research budget
is said to contain no big surprises, which means once again no significant
redirection and no big increases.
OMB has proposed sacrificing the
Conservation Farm Option to provide offsets for new legislation (that would
have to pass the Agriculture Committees and then be left untouched in
appropriations) to authorize increases in Farmland Protection and Wildlife
Habitat Incentive programs (which have already spent their full 96 farm bill
funding). Evidently they believe two in the bush are worth a bird in the hand!
We expect USDA to put up some opposition to this internecine warfare, but
don't know how it will fare.
The budget will also once again propose
new legislation to increase EQIP by $100 million as per the Administration's
Clean Water Action Plan, but this too would have to be passed as new Ag
Committee legislation and then escape appropriations unscathed to become
reality. Surprisingly, the budget is not likely to include the CWAP's proposed
new legislation to increase the Wetland Reserve acreage authorization.
One that you can bet is getting lots of attention over at the
Department is an OMB proposal to merge and consolidate FSA, NRCS, and Rural
Development staff at the county office level. We're betting this will be
fought hard enough to get knocked out, but stay tuned! NRCS in particular
takes it on the chin staff-wise in the OMB proposal. FSA, which as you may
recall received a current year $40 million increase for staff as part of the
emergency farm aid budget bill, is faring much better and appears to in line
for increased funding to go with its post-farm bill decreased workload. Go
In terms of the big picture, the situation remains the same: frozen
and declining funds available for discretionary (annually appropriated)
programs, as per the balanced budget act. Every Administration budget
initiative, be it for education, clean water, or small farms, necessarily is
taken out of other existing government services.
will find room for some of these initiatives -- those with big constituencies
or strong polling numbers -- and ignore the rest. The Administration will
choose a few to make a stand over. In the meantime, the appropriators will
look around for any mandatory funding they can get their bony hands around. In
agriculture, this means would-be mandatory conservation, research and rural
development programs are totally at risk, with the only protected sacred cows
being AMTA and CRP payments.
The budget process will be dominated by the discussions over Social
Security and tax cuts and will likely again fall far behind schedule, if not
disintegrate completely as it did this year. This despite last weeks
promise from incoming Speaker of the House (and former approps Chair) Bob
Livingston and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott to make the budget trains run
on time. So we should expect appropriations to move ahead without waiting on a
budget as we enter year two of the ad hoc non-budget non-process. Our best
tactic? Be prepared to start early and get our letter writing and calling
geared up for ASAP after the Annual Meeting!
Anybody Listening in Des Moines?
The sustainable agriculture and environmental community had a big turnout
at the Des Moines, Iowa listening session on the USDA-EPA Draft Unified
National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations. Many MSAWG members attended
and have provided us at the SAC office with reports on the session. Our MSAWG
"field reporters" include John Crabtree of the Center for Rural
Affairs, Pam Hansen of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, and Joe Fagin of the
About 250 people attended the session and over 50 of the 60 people
who spoke called for stringent national regulations to deal with pollution from
large-scale, factory farm operations. Many of the speakers have had to cope
with the adverse effects of factory farms on their health and the environment.
Most of the speakers were also strongly opposed to the NPPC compliance audit
program announced just days before the session.
Browner and USDA Secretary Glickman did not appear at the session, as
scheduled, and no explanation was given for their absence. They were
expecting, perhaps, accolades and laurels, instead of a guided tour of
lagoon-front property? Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who did appear and heard the
first hour of the four hours of comments, announced that he was going to call
for a review of the NPPC-EPA Compliance Audit Program.
A hearing was held in Chattanooga, TN on December 9 and the remaining
scheduled hearings include Indianapolis, IN on Dec. 10; Fort Worth, TX on Dec.
10; Denver, CO on Dec.14; and Annapolis, MD on Dec. 15. Rumor has it that an
Idaho session is in the works, at the request of Senator Larry Craig.
that USDA and EPA are not taking written comments at the hearing and that
hearing comments are not part of the "official" administrative record
on the Draft Strategy. Written comments for the official record must be
submitted by January 19, 1999 to Denise C. Coleman, Program Analyst, USDA
Natural Resources Conservation Service, ATTN: AFO, Box 2890, Washington D.C.
EPA & NPPC Say Itll All Be OK
EPA gave the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) a Thanksgiving eve
present by announcing an agreement which gives NPPC oversight of a Clean Water
Act Compliance Audit Program (CAP) for swine feeding operations. The details
of the agreement and the CAP are posted on the Web at
review of the CAP finds significant flaws. First, the CAP was not released for
public comment before its adoption by the EPA. The deal is an agreement
negotiated between the EPA and the NPPC, without public review or comment, even
from the individuals and communities dealing with the adverse effects of
large-scale swine operations. This is particularly insulting to those who are
currently making the effort to attend and speak at the USDA-EPA Draft AFO
Strategy "listening sessions".
Second, the on-farm environmental assessment report provided for
under the CAP is a private document. Even the EPA will not receive the actual
assessment, but instead receives a pro forma "Final Report" filled
out by the producer.
Third, the CAP provides for Consent Agreements and Orders with a cap
of $40,000 in civil penalties under the Clean Water Act against a swine
operation, without regard to its size or the degree of environmental harm that
may have been caused by the violations. Even this amount may be significantly
reduced, if the operation corrects its deficiencies to the satisfaction of the
farm environmental assessors. Some violations, such as pollutant discharges
from land application because the land base is too small to handle the waste,
may be waived altogether.
Moreover, the assessments and Consent
Agreement/Orders cannot address the issue of whether the swine production
operation is in violation of the Clean Water Act because it is operating
without a NPDES permit as required by law. This omission renders the CAP
toothless to adequately deal with the fact that thousands of production
facilities are required by law to have these permits under the Clean Water Act,
but dont and they cant be busted for violating a permit they dont
have, or for the lack of that same permit. As Yossarian found out, that
Catch-22 sure is a doozie!
We here at SAC are currently working with the Clean Water Network in
drafting a letter of protest to EPA Administrator Carol Browner and others in
the Administration over the substance and process of establishing this NPPC
CAP. The EPA has also indicated that it will be publishing an announcement of
the NPPC-EPA deal in the Federal Register, at which time the agency will take
comments even though the CAP is apparently a "done deal". The SAC
office will consult with our members in preparing comments in response to this
Senate Shuffles on A Committees
The Senate has finalized committee assignments for the coming Congress,
including a few changes to the rosters of the Agriculture and Appropriations
panels. New to Senate Ag will be Democratic Senator-elect Blanche
Lambert-Lincoln (Ark.) and Republican Senator-elect Peter Fitzgerald (Ill.).
Departing that committee will be two southerners, Republican Phil Gramm (Tex.)
and Democrat Mary Landrieu (La.). Arizona Republican John Kyl will take the
place of the defeated Boss Hog Lauch Faircloth (NC) on the Senate
Appropriations Committee. The Democratic line-up on Approps will see the
addition of Richard Durbin (Ill.) and Diane Feinstein (Cal.), replacing fellow
Golden-Stater Barbara Boxer (for whom Feinstein gave up her approps seat two
years ago with Boxer up for re-election in 1998) and retiring Senator Dale
Bumpers (Ark.). Both Durbin and Feinstein are likely to fill the two open
Democratic slots on the Ag Approps subcommittee.
On the House side, the Democrats have not yet named committee
line-ups, in part due to their protest over the Republicans refusal to
revise the R/D committee ratios despite the notable shrinkage of the Republican
majority in that body over the last two elections. The Republicans have
announced their committee slates, which will see Larry Combest of Texas take
the Chair of the Ag Committee, along with new arrivals Gil Gutknecht (Minn.),
Greg Walden (Ore.), Mike Simpson (Id.), Doug Ose (Cal.), Robin Hayes (NC), and
Ernie Fletcher (Ky.). Republicans leaving the House Ag Committee are Bob
Smith (Ore.), John Doolittle (Cal.), Ron Lewis (Ky.), Mark Foley (Fla.), Jo Ann
Emerson (Mo.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), and Charles W. Chip Pickering
The House Approps Committee will see a new chair as well in C.W. Bill
Young of Florida, joined on the Republican side by Jo Ann Emerson, John Sununu
(NH), Kay Granger (Tex.), and John Peterson (Pa.). Saying adios to approps
are Bob Livingston, Joe McDade (Pa.), Mike Parker (Miss.), and Mark Neumann,
(Wis.), all of whom, with the exception of Speaker-elect Livingston, get the
rare opportunity to separate their true friends from those who were merely
fawning over an appropriator. Its a safe bet theyll really, really
miss the fawning
Airing out the Soundbite Safety Net
We heard a brief flurry of noises on the so-called "farm safety net"
in the past week. Of course, everyone expects that the Agriculture Committees
will consider changes early in the new session to crop and revenue insurance
policy. Insurance programs in many circles have become synonymous with the
term "safety net." Several legislative proposals are in the works,
including presumably one from the Department.
Last week, Vice President Gore spoke to a Farm Journal forum
and, in a speech that touched on beef and pork purchases for the school lunch
program, export subsidies, fast track, farmland preservation, and the wonders
of biotechnology (insert your own oak/human DNA quip here its just too
darn easy), the Veep called on Secretary Glickman to deliver to him a
comprehensive farm safety net plan. A day later, OMB issued an invitation to a
briefing on a farm safety net proposal, but alas, the briefing centered on
overall budget woes and barely mentioned the safety net issue even in passing.
Sensing an opportunity to shift the terms of the debate,
however, some of the members of the National Commission on Small Farms are
considering a letter to the Administration highlighting their recommendations
on issues such as market access, price discrimination, marketing alternatives,
improved but targeted revenue insurance, and adequate direct credit for
beginning and small farmers, as the appropriate bundle of policies to
incorporate in the new plan. This could be helpful in encouraging a more
serious policy discussion.
Of course, the last time the White House
ordered up a new safety net plan -- in the signing statement of the 1996 farm
bill a whole lotta nuthin happened, and even during congressional
consideration of the $7 billion emergency farm aid package, the Department and
Administration remained reactionary and without any proposals of their own.
So, dont hold your breath on the second time around.
Land Grant Research Rules
The 1998 ag research bill mandated that all institutions receiving federal
research and extension formula funds prepare, submit and have approved "plans
of work" before funds are released. In addition, the new law requires
each institution to implement a process to obtain stakeholder input under
regulations to be promulgated by USDA.
We now expect two Federal
Register notices to appear in January. One will be proposed guidelines for
developing plans of work, with a 30 day comment period, and the other will be
the formal proposed rule for stakeholder input, with a 30 or possibly 60 day
Each land grant will submit their plans of work,
which will include their stakeholder input process as well as their procedures
for merit and peer review, by June 1st. USDA will have 90 days to review the
plans and an additional 30 days to negotiate problems with the institution,
with the hope of having plans approved by the beginning of the fiscal year on
IFS ARS Meeting Set for January
Ferd Hoefner and Mark Keating have been putting together a national network
of sustainable ag researchers, practitioners and advocates to meet with the
Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, MD on January 11. The purpose of
the meeting is to review the agencys Integrated Farming Systems (IFS)
National Program statement and identify opportunities for the sustainable ag
community to partner with ARS field laboratories in long term, systems based
The IFS National Program has potential to respond
to the needs of alternative producers and developing working partnerships is a
critical step for prioritizing our research needs. Congress has requested
that ARS incorporate greater stakeholder participation into the IFS program.
The Michael Fields Agricultural Institute has operated its Wisconsin Integrated
Cropping Systems Trial in collaboration with ARS and other partners and the
meeting will lay the groundwork for similar opportunities.
Small Farm Council Begins
As we reported in the last issue, USDA's Small Farm Action Team (which
should have its own line of S-FAT Action Figures in stores by Christmas)
submitted a progress report on all the A Time to Act recommendations to
the Small Farm Commission members during their meeting in October. One of the
internal USDA mechanisms to continue the discussion is about to become reality
-- the establishment of the USDA Council on Small Farms, with representation
from nearly all USDA agencies. The first meeting of the Council will take
place December 16th.
Early this month, the Clean Water Network and the Natural Resources Defense
Council released the report "America's Animal Factories: How States Fail
to Prevent Pollution from Livestock Waste." The first chapter of the
report provides a brief overview of the adverse environmental and health
effects of factory farms. Subsequent chapters summarize the factory farm
problem in 30 states, focusing on issues such as specific pollution problems,
the regulatory climate, citizen involvement, and the extent to which local
governments have been prevented by the states from using zoning, public health
authority, and other local government tools in dealing with factory farm
The report was released on December 3 simultaneously in
many states and in conjunction with the December 4 Draft AFO Strategy listening
session in Des Moines, Iowa. A number of MSAWG members provided information
for state reports, e.g. Brother David Andrews of the National Rural Catholic
Life Conference for Iowa; Pam Hansen of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance for
Illinois; and Nancy Thompson, Center for Rural Affairs for Nebraska.
The report is posted on the Clean Water Network website at
http://www.cwn.org and the NRDC website at
http://www.nrdc.org. To obtain a hard copy
of the report, contact Carol James by e-mail at
email@example.com or by phone at (202)
289-2390. Please let her know as soon as possible if you need multiple copies
for distribution. NRDC will be doing another printing of the report soon.
Also, for more information on the consequences of large-scale
industrialized factory farms on rural communities, check out the book "Pigs,
Profits, and Rural Communities", edited by Kendall M. Thu and E. Paul
Durrenberger. The book is available from the State University Press of New
York for $17.95 in paperback. Check the web at
http://www.sunypress.edu or phone (607)
Organic Comment Clock Ticking
As we reported previously, the USDA has three thought papers in
the field, with comment required by December 14. Kathleen Merrigan reports
that the National Organic Standards Board has adopted official responses to the
two livestock papers, with both paper and NOSB response now posted on the
National Organic Program webpage at http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop.
NOSB response to the certification paper will be revised and posted there.
In addition to the NOSB comments, the National Campaign for
Sustainable Agriculture is circulating a sign-on letter with detailed comment,
and the Henry A. Wallace Institute has posed its comments on the antibiotics
and paraciticides in livestock production on its own webpage at
http://www.hawiaa.org and should have its
comments on certification there by Friday, Dec. 11.
See You In Sunny Madison!
Youd have to have spent the last six months living under a rock (not
all its cracked up to be, let me tell you) not to know that MSAWG will be
celebrating its Third Annual Gathering at the Bishop OConnor Catholic
Pastoral Center in Madison Wisconsin, January 22-24.
lined up a spectacular roster of speakers and workshops, including a keynote
address by Greg Gunthorp, an Indiana pastured hog producer and delegate to the
USDA Commission on Small Farms entitled A Time To Act Is USDA Walking
Its Talk on Small Farms?
Saturday night will see Eric Sessions
up from Decorah, Iowa with his fiddle and red-hot string band to spin out a
dance tune or two. Contact Chris Reitz of the Wisconsin Rural Development
Center at (608) 226-0300 for more information on registration. You wont
want to miss it!
Also in January, a conference on The State of North Americas
Private Land, hosted the Soil and Water Conservation Society in Chicago,
January 19-21. The goal of the conference is to assess the health of
private lands, including small and limited resource farm and forest land
operations and to begin the process of setting goals for improving the health
of the land. Panel discussions will focus on soil, air, water,
biodiversity, Achieving Integration and Consistency, Putting
the Pieces Together, and Viewpoints. You can find more
information on the web at http://www.swcs.org,
or contact the SWCS (515) 289-2331.
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