Home News & Events Alternative Agriculture News -- November '97

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Alternative Agriculture News
For November, 1997, from the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture.

Research Title Include Precision Agriculture Amendments
Slow-Moving Organic Standards Are in Their Final Stage
Paul Johnson Resigns from NRCS
Humans Now Dominate the Nitrogen Cycle, Says Smithsonian
USDA Attacks Corn Rootworm with Areawide IPM Program
Two SARE Regions Call for Proposals
Upcoming Events

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©1997, Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, 9200 Edmonston Road, #117, Greenbelt, MD 20770. Phone: (301) 441-8777. E-mail: hawiaa@access.digex.net.

This newsletter is also available to subscribers to the sanet-mg discussion group. To subscribe, send a message to: almanac@ces.ncsu.edu. Leave the subject line blank and in the body of the message type only: subscribe sanet-mg

Subscription information for the hard-copy version is available at the Wallace Institute website.

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 agriculture systems.

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 Nutrition.

Subscriptions to AJAA are $44 for libraries; $24 for individuals; and $12 for students. Find more information about AJAA at the Wallace Institute website.

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 pollution.
  • Economic and market feasibility studies to identify new and expanded consumer opportunities.
  • Technology assessment to identify specific needs of smaller livestock producers.

The Senate Agriculture Committee approved the research title in August (see Alternative Agriculture News, September, 1997).

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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.

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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 Christmas trees.

"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 land."

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."

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  • 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. 12545.
  • 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 70504.
  • 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.
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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).

Humans have 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.

"Most experts 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 nitrogen use.

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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 article in 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.

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Two SARE Regions Call for Proposals

The Northeast and Southern SARE Regions are calling for proposals for grants in 1998.

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 msimpson@zoo.uvm.edu; 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 jmayne@gaes.griffin.peachnet.edu.

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  • "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 itracy@aol.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 ish-bittersweet@juno.com.
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Upcoming Events

For additional listings, see the Sustainable 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 mfai@igc.apc.org.
  • 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 swcs@swcs.org; on the Internet, http://www.swcs.org.
  • December 2, "Partners for Smart Growth" will be held in Baltimore, MD; contact Urban Land Institute, 1-800-321-5011; e- mail smartgrowth@uli.org.
  • 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) 369-4044.
  • December 7, "Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference" will be held in Milwaukee, WI; contact Laura Paine, (602) 262-6203; e- mail lkpaine@facstaff.wisc.edu.
  • December 16-18, 10th New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Biennial Conference and Trade Show will be held in Sturbridge, MA; contact NEV&BGA, (860) 486-3438.
  • January 14, 1998, Southern Region SARE PDP/Chapter 3 Annual workshop will be held in Memphis, TN; contact Roseanne Minarovic or Roger Crickenberger, (919) 515-3252; e-mail rcricken@amaroq.ces.ncsu.edu.
  • 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 jeanmills@aol.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 kirschner@ctic.purdue.edu; on the Internet, http://www.ctic.purdue.edu.
  • 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, http://www.gks.com/OrgConf/
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Home News & Events Alternative Agriculture News -- November '97

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