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Alternative Agriculture News
November, 1997, from the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture.
Title Include Precision Agriculture Amendments
Organic Standards Are in Their Final Stage
Paul Johnson Resigns from NRCS
Humans Now Dominate the Nitrogen Cycle, Says Smithsonian
Attacks Corn Rootworm with Areawide IPM Program
SARE Regions Call for Proposals
©1997, Henry A. Wallace Institute
for Alternative Agriculture, 9200 Edmonston Road, #117, Greenbelt, MD 20770.
Phone: (301) 441-8777. E-mail:
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In addition to this monthly newsletter, the Henry A. Wallace Institute for
Alternative Agriculture publishes the American Journal of Alternative
Agriculture, a quarterly, peer-reviewed journal of research on alternative
agriculture. It is a scientific forum for disseminating technical, economic,
and social research findings about the character and requirements of alternative
The current issue (Volume 12, No. 2) examines
flooding in cranberry beds to minimize insecticide and fungicide inputs, and the
Illinois Soil Quality Initiative's farmer-centered approach to developing
information. Other articles include:
- Alternative production systems' effects on the soil erodibility factor of
the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation.
- Suppression of VAM fungi and micronutrient uptake by low-level phosphorus
fertilization in wheat rotations.
- Abstracts from the International Conference on Agricultural Production and
Subscriptions to AJAA are $44 for libraries; $24 for individuals; and $12
for students. Find more information
about AJAA at the Wallace Institute
Research Title Include Precision Agriculture Amendments
The Senate version of the "Agricultural Research, Extension, and
Education Reform Act of 1997," or research title, now includes several
amendments by Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) which were negotiated behind the
scenes last month. When the full Senate approved the research title by voice
vote late last month, it incorporated those amendments, including two amendments
on the precision agriculture authorization:
- "Costs" as well as "benefits" can now be talked about
in educational, or extension, grants under the precision agriculture title.
- A new grant category was added for research on whether precision
agriculture technologies are applicable and accessible to small and medium-size
farms, and for the study of methods of improving the applicability of precision
agriculture to those farms.
Another Feingold amendment which was incorporated into the bill would
authorize a new "coordinated program of research, extension, and education
to improve viability of small and medium-size dairy and livestock operations."
According to the Midwest Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, it calls for
research and education on
- Low-cost production practices and management systems.
- Management-intensive grazing systems.
- Integrated crop and livestock systems to reduce costs and prevent
- Economic and market feasibility studies to identify new and expanded
- Technology assessment to identify specific needs of smaller livestock
The Senate Agriculture Committee approved the research title in August (see
Alternative Agriculture News, September, 1997).
Slow-Moving Organic Standards Are in Their Final Stage
"What's taken so long?" asks The Washington Post (October
14, 1997) in an article on the long-awaited national organic standards, which
were required under the Organic Foods Production Act in the 1990 Farm Bill. Lon
Hatamiya, administrator of the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, which is
in charge of developing the standards, said the main reason for the delay in
developing the standards is the "complexity" of the topic. "This
has never been done before," he said. "Even so, it's taken too long."
The proposed regulations, which The Post says are 600 pages
long, are "currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget,
where they have been since the middle of June. Once released, they'll be
published in the Federal Register. Then comes a 90-day public comment
period, during which consumers will be able to comment via the Internet."
The USDA will then incorporate the public comments, release the final
regulations, and implement them. "Even though there are no federal
standards, 17 states have laws governing organic foods, and there are 33 private
certification organizations that verify organic production according to industry
standards," the article said. "Still, while about 5,000 farms that
produce organic foods are currently certified by states or private groups, an
equal or greater number are not."
Kathleen Merrigan, Senior Analyst for the Wallace Institute and a
member of the National Organic Standards Board, confirms that the standards are
in their final stage, and said she expects them to be announced soon after
Thanksgiving. "All the issues have been resolved, and OMB and USDA are
looking at how to engage the public in commenting on the rule," she said.
After the standards are released, she said, the National Organic Standards Board
will meet to formulate a response to them.
Paul Johnson Resigns from NRCS
Paul W. Johnson, chief of the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service
for three years, resigned last month because, he said, "I just felt it was
time to go back to the farm."
Johnson, a former board member and
consultant with the Wallace Institute, was an Iowa farmer and former state
representative before taking over the agency in 1994, when it was called the
Soil Conservation Service. When he returns to Iowa this month, he said, he
wants to re-establish livestock on his farm, which recently has produced
"The Iowan took over NRCS early in 1994 at a
time when the Clinton administration was ordering major layoffs, but he managed
to meet most of these reductions by paring the Washington staff, leaving the
long-admired agency's field operations largely intact," according to an
article in The Des Moines Register. Johnson achieved "a strong
program for soil and water conservation in the new GOP-backed farm act,"
and "emphasized the importance of conserving natural resources on private
USDA Secretary Dan Glickman praised Johnson as "a passionate
spokesperson and visionary for conservation on private lands. He focused the
agency on activities that met traditional conservation and stewardship goals
built on partnerships, local and regional priorities, and environmental needs.
History will judge Paul as a great innovator and an outstanding conservationist.
His legacy will remain at USDA for many, many years."
- Institute of Ecosystem Studies seeks a college student to be an ecology
education intern; send letter, resume, list of relevant courses, and three
references by November 21 to Dr. Kathleen Hogan, Educational Research &
Development Specialist, Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Box R, Millbrook, N.Y.
- University of Southwestern Louisiana seeks a Dean of the College of Applied
Life Sciences; applicant must have a doctorate; send letter, vita, and three to
five references by December 20 to The Q-S-N Committee, College of Applied Life
Sciences, University of Southwestern Louisiana, P.O. Box 44650, Lafayette, LA
- Worldwatch Institute seeks a Vice President for Operations; send resume and
writing sample to Daniel Sherman, Vice President, Goodwin & Company, 1320
19th St., NW, #801, Washington, D.C. 20036.
Humans Now Dominate the Nitrogen Cycle, Says Smithsonian
The natural cycle of nitrogen may now be overloaded because "human
activity has come to dominate one of the most basic cycles in nature,"
according to an article in Smithsonian (October, 1997).
been increasing the supply of fixed nitrogen in the past 200 years by burning
fossil fuel, growing legumes, and "producing industrially fixed nitrogen
for use as fertilizer." If levels of nitrogen, an "overworked and
unappreciated" element, increase too much, there will be greatly reduced
plant diversity, more hazy days due to increased air pollution, and more green
scum in lakes and estuaries, the article says.
agree that the farm, and specifically the more efficient use of fertilizer
there, is the place to start looking for ways to decrease our nitrogen use,"
concludes the article, which mentions precision agriculture as one way to cut
USDA Attacks Corn Rootworm with Areawide IPM Program
The USDA's Agricultural Research Service attacked the corn rootworm in the
Corn Belt this past summer with an areawide integrated pest management project,
according to an
Agricultural Research (October, 1997).
The project was launched
to support the department's goal of having farmers use IPM on 75 percent of the
nation's cropland by 2000. It used a bait made from powdered wild buffalo gourd
root laced with a tiny dose of carbaryl insecticide.
In an areawide
IPM project, a key pest is targeted over a large geographic area "with all
farmers participating, so the pest has nowhere to go to avoid control measures."
The target area in the Indiana-Illinois project was 10,000 acres. It was the
ARS' second areawide IPM project with state agricultural experiment stations and
growers, and the first to focus on corn pests.
Two SARE Regions Call for Proposals
The Northeast and Southern SARE Regions are calling for proposals for grants
The Northeast Region seeks proposals for research,
education, and on-farm demonstration projects under the SARE and ACE programs.
Proposals must be received by January 15, 1998. For copies of the call for
proposals, call (802) 656-0471; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org;
or download from the Internet at http://www.uvm.edu/~nesare/.
The Southern Region seeks proposals under its Producer Grant Program
for research, education and marketing projects. Proposals must be received by
January 30, 1998. For copies of the call for proposals, contact John C. Mayne,
Ph.D., Southern Region SARE, Producer Grants Coordinator, (770) 229-3350; e-mail
- "Searching for the 'O-Word'," a study of the USDA's research
budget for organic farming systems (see Alternative
Agriculture News, February, 1997) is $15 from Organic Farming Research
Foundation, P.O. Box 440, Santa Cruz, CA 95061; (408) 426-6606.
- Visions of American Agriculture, 304 pages, a collection of
writings by 17 experts on social evolution in the agriculture sector edited by
William Lockeretz, Editor of American Journal of Alternative Agriculture,
is $39.95 plus $4 shipping from Iowa State University Press, 2121 S. State Ave.,
Ames, IA 50014; 1- 800-862-6657.
- "Toward Organic Integrity: A Guide to the Development of U.S. Organic
Standards" is $25 from Rural Advancement Foundation International, 101
Hillsboro St., #5, P.O. Box 640, Pittsboro, N.C. 27312; (919) 542-1396.
- "Economics Research and Education Priorities for an Efficient and
Sustainable Food System" is available from Tracy Irwin Hewitt, Council on
Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, 726 F St., NE, Washington, D.C.
20002; (202) 544-2145; e-mail email@example.com.
- "Dynamic Farmers' Marketing: A Guide to Successfully Selling Your
Farmers' Market Products" is $14.95 plus $2.50 shipping from Bittersweet
Farmstead, P.O. Box 52, Middlebrook, VA 24459; (540) 886-8477; e-mail
For additional listings, see
Agriculture Network's Calendar of Events.
- November 22-23, "Reclaiming the Sacred in Farming and Food" will
be held in East Troy, WI; contact the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute at
(414) 642-3303; e-mail
- November 28 is the deadline for oral presentation and interactive session
proposals, and January 5, 1998, is the deadline for poster presentation
proposals for "Balancing Resource Issues," the Soil and Water
Conservation Society Annual Conference to be held in San Diego, CA, July 5-9,
1998; contact SWCS, 7515 NE Ankeny Road, Ankeny, IA 50021; (515) 289-2331; e-
mail firstname.lastname@example.org; on the Internet,
- December 2, "Partners for Smart Growth" will be held in
Baltimore, MD; contact Urban Land Institute, 1-800-321-5011; e- mail
- December 4-6, "Blueprint for Eco-Farming," the 1997 Acres U.S.A.
Conference, will be held in St. Louis, MO; contact Acres U.S.A., 1-800-355-5313.
- December 6, an information session will be held at Conway School of
Landscape Design; contact the school, Delabarre Avenue, Conway, MA 01341; (413)
- December 7, "Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference" will be held
in Milwaukee, WI; contact Laura Paine, (602) 262-6203; e- mail
- December 16-18, 10th New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Biennial
Conference and Trade Show will be held in Sturbridge, MA; contact NEV&BGA,
- January 14, 1998, Southern Region SARE PDP/Chapter 3 Annual workshop will
be held in Memphis, TN; contact Roseanne Minarovic or Roger Crickenberger, (919)
- January 21-24, 1998, 18th Annual Ecological Farming Conference will be held
in Pacific Grove, CA; contact Committee for Sustainable Agriculture, 406 Main
St., #313, Watsonville, CA 95076; (408) 763-2111.
- January 22-25, 1998, Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Annual
Conference and Trade Show will be held in Memphis, TN; contact Jean Mills, (205)
333-8504; e-mail email@example.com.
- January 26-28, 1998, National Conservation Buffers Technology Conference
will be held in San Antonio, TX; contact Lyn Kirschner, Conservation Technology
Information Center, (765) 494-1827; e-mail
- January 30-31, 1998, "Sharing the Lessons of Organic Farming,"
the 17th Annual Organic Conference and Eco-Products Trade Show will be held at
the University of Guelph, Canada; contact Tomas Nimmo, Canadian Organic Growers,
Box 116, Collingwood, Ontario, Canada L9Y 3Z4; (705) 444-0923; on the Internet,
©1997 Committee for
Sustainable Farm Publishing
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