Home News & Events Alternative Agriculture News -- July '99

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Alternative Agriculture News
For July '99, from the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture.

red ballOrganic Crops Can Be As, or More, Profitable As Conventional
red ballVoluntary Program Will Boost Organic Exports
red ballNominations Sought for Steward of the Land Award
red ballPositions
red ballBiotech Crops Reduce Pesticide Sales, But Worry Industry
red ballAmerica Gets Its First Organic Restaurant
red ballResources
red ballUpcoming Events

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©1999, 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 14, No. 1) features articles on:

  • Factors, challenges, and obstacles in organic farmers' decision-making.
  • Farmers' perceptions of soil quality indicators, farmers' attitudes towards sustainable agriculture issues and environmental quality in a selected area of Bangladesh.
  • Rice and wheat production in Pakistan with effective microorganisms.
  • A profile of an organic farm in Sweden.
  • Commentary on whether precision agriculture is sustainable.

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

red ballOrganic Crops Can Be As, or More, Profitable As Conventional

Organic cropping systems in the midwestern United States can be as profitable, or even more profitable, than most conventional rotations, according to a new report by the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture entitled The Economics of Organic Grain and Soybean Production in the Midwestern United States.

To help farmers understand the profitability of organic agriculture, the Wallace Institute report, by policy analyst Rick Welsh, analyzes studies comparing organic and conventional grain cropping systems. The report also reviews past and current research on the conditions under which growing organic crops is profitable, and provides a summary and assessment of the "best science" available on the topic.

There has been dramatic worldwide growth in the production of, and demand for, organically produced agricultural products. In addition, consumers have consistently been willing to pay premium prices for organic products, which has often caused processors to pay premiums to farmers for organic grains. However, the study found that premiums are not always necessary for organic systems to outperform conventional systems.

When the organic systems were more profitable, it was due to one or more factors, including:

  • The organic system having lower production costs.
  • The net returns for the types of crops in the organic rotation were higher than the net returns for the types of crops in the conventional rotation.
  • Organic systems are drought hardy and can outperform conventional systems in drier areas or during drier periods.

In addition to the economic benefits of organic grain and soybean production in the midwestern United States, there are potential health benefits to farm-level workers and the natural environment from organic production. "Given the potential economic, health, and environmental benefits of organic production, a greater public policy commitment in research, investment, and education is needed," according to the report, which makes policy recommendations for state and federal agencies, and private sector firms.

Such commitments could mirror the efforts of several European governments. Denmark has enacted financial support policies for organic farming, including information and marketing support and financial assistance. Sweden, through charges on fertilizers and pesticides, funds research into reducing and eliminating synthetic chemicals in agricultural production.

Also needed is work on the marketing aspects of organic agriculture, the report concludes.

State departments of agriculture, and other interested parties that view organic agriculture as a potentially fruitful area for environmental management and rural development, might invest resources to develop marketing information useful to organic farmers. In addition, extension services could assist organic farmers in developing or locating market outlets or developing individual or cooperative marketing strategies.

The Economics of Organic Grain and Soybean Production in the Midwestern United States is available electronically on the Wallace Institute's Web site at http://www.hawiaa.org/pspr13.htm, or in hard copy for $15 from the Wallace Institute, 9200 Edmonston Road, #117, Greenbelt, MD 20770; (301) 441-8777; e-mail hawiaa@access.digex.net

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red ballVoluntary Program Will Boost Organic Exports

The USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has established a voluntary, fee-for-service program to verify that organic certification agencies in the United States comply with the requirements of the International Organization for Standardization, facilitating exports of U.S. organic agricultural products to the European Union. Effective last month, the program will verify that state and private organic certifying agencies are operating third-party certification systems in a consistent and reliable manner, enabling their acceptance on an international basis.

The new program does not provide for national standards governing the marketing of organically produced agricultural commodities or products, and differs substantially from the proposed National Organic Program. To be assessed under this program, an organic certifying agency would submit an application requesting such assessment from AMS and also submit to AMS for review and evaluation, a manual documenting the organic certifying agency's quality system and certification procedures used to certify organic producers and handlers. There are currently 11 state and 33 private organic certifying agencies providing certification for organic agricultural products in the United States.

The rule announcing the program was published in the Federal Register on June 10 and is available on the Internet at www.access.gpo.gov/nara in the Federal Register for that date, under "Program To Assess Organic Certifying Agencies."

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red ballNominations Sought for Steward of the Land Award

American Farmland Trust seeks nominations for the 2000 Steward of the Land Award, given annually to the American farmer or farm family who demonstrates outstanding land stewardship and leadership at the national, state, and local levels. The winner will be presented with the award early next year and will receive a $10,000 cash stipend. Nominations must be received by mail or fax by Monday, November 1. For nomination kits and more information, contact Matthew Snyder or Robyn Miller at AFT, (202) 331-7300 ext. 3044, or visit AFT's Web site at www.farmland.org.

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red ballPositions
  • National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture seeks an organizer to work on policy advocacy activities; send cover letter, resume, writing samples, and references to Amy Little, Executive Director, National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, P.O. Box 396, Pine Bush, N.Y. 12566; (914) 744-8448; e-mail campaign@magiccarpet.com.

  • Regional Farm & Food Project seeks a Program Coordinator; contact Shannon Hayes, Regional Farm & Food Project, 27 Elm St., Albany, N.Y. 12202; (518) 234-2105; e-mail maiaharbol@aol.com.

  • Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, University of California, Santa Cruz, seeks applicants for its Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture program; for application brochure, contact Apprenticeship Information, Center for Agroecology, UC Santa Cruz, 1156 High St., Santa Cruz, CA 95064; (831) 459-4140; e-mail annemari@zzyx.ucsc.edu

  • Institute of Ecosystem Studies seeks a Watershed Ecology Program Educator and an Ecology Field Program Educator; contact Dr. Alan R. Berkowitz, Head of Education, IES, P.O. Box R, Millbrook, N.Y. 12545; e-mail berkowitza@ecostudies.org.
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red ballBiotech Crops Reduce Pesticide Sales, But Worry Industry

Accelerating use of genetically altered seeds is causing pesticide sales to decrease, but corporate concerns to increase because of consumer protests and European backlash, according to several published reports. "New bug-resistant crops are cooling demand for some pesticides, and farmers are abandoning long-used weedkillers," according to The Wall Street Journal (June 16, 1999). The use of genetically-altered seeds has cut into pesticide manufacturers' profits, and prompted some chemical companies to reduce their wholesale pesticide prices.

Though the biotech industry has developed products that are selling well, "critics are raising concerns about threats to health and the environment, prompting the industry to think hard about where it is heading," according to The New York Times (June 24, 1999).

The industry is using a forecasting technique known as "story building" as "an early warning system for how their strategies could go astray." Biotech companies are facing critics who have stepped up their efforts "to portray the advances as fraught with threats to human health and the environment....The result has been a crisis of confidence in the industry." The story building studies two to four contrasting visions of the future, including political surprises, industrial accidents, or social disruptions unanticipated in business plans.

According to a story in Barron's Online (May 24, 1999), business analysts also have concerns about genetically altered products. "Lately, GMO [genetically modified] products have provoked fear among consumers, and the erstwhile boon is becoming a bane," the story said.

"‘We predict that GMOs, once perceived as the driver of the bull case for this sector, will now be perceived as a pariah,' says Tim Ramey, an agribusiness analyst at Deutsche Bank Securities. ‘We see a two-tier price system developing with genetically modified corn and soybeans at a discount to regular corn and soybeans.'" Some European processors are already paying premiums of $1 a bushel for non-GMO products, it said.

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red ballAmerica Gets Its First Organic Restaurant

Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C., has become the country's first certified organic restaurant, according to The Washington Post (June 23, 1999). The certification process, which took three years, required restaurant owner Nora Pouillon to document that at least 95 percent of the ingredients she purchases come from farmers and processors who themselves are certified. The restaurant's pantry was also inspected, and its invoices verified. Pouillon buys organic ingredients from small local farmers and more than 50 purveyors. "In getting certified, she wanted to show her peers in the environmental and natural food worlds that it could be done," according to the story.

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red ballResources
  • "Buffers -- Common-Sense Conservation" and "Buffer Solutions for Pork Production" are available from the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service at 1-888- LANDCARE or on the Internet at http://www.nrsc.usda.gov/.

  • "Upper Midwest Organic Livestock Producers' Directory" is $5 from Cooperative Development Services, 30 West Mifflin St., #401, Madison, WI 53703; (608) 258-4396; e-mail darcylk@inxpress.net.

  • "Leveling the Learning Fields: As Assessment of the Agriculture Partnership Model and Voluntary Pesticide Reduction in BIOS-Merced and BIFS-Lodi" is $15 from James Grieshop, Department of Human and Community Development, University of California/Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616.

  • "Getting Food on the Table: An Action Guide to Local Food Policy" is $12 from Community Food Security Coalition, P.O. Box 209, Venice, VA 90294; (310) 822-5410.

  • "Whole Farm Planning at Work: Success Stories of Ten Farms" is $8 from The Minnesota Project, 1885 University Avenue West, #315, St. Paul, MN 55104.
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red ballUpcoming Events

For additional listings, see the Sustainable Agriculture Network's Calendar of Events.

  • July-November, the 1999 Farm Ecology Tour Series will be held at several locations in Ohio; for full schedule of events and locations, contact Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association, P.O. Box 82234, Columbus, OH 43202; (614) 267-3663; e-mail oeffa@iwaynet.net

  • July-September, Practical Farmers of Iowa will hold farm field days at several locations in Iowa; for full schedule of events and locations, contact Rick Exner, PFI/ISU Extension Farming Systems Coordinator, (515) 294-5486; e-mail dnexner@iastate.edu

  • July-September, on-farm summer workshops will be held at several locations in Vermont; for full schedule of events and locations, contact Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, P.O. Box 697, Richmond, VT 05477; (802) 434-4122.

  • July 26-27, "Creating Incentives for Farmer-led Source Water Protection" will be held in Columbus, OH; contact Mark Muller, Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, (612) 870-3420; e-mail mmuller@iatp.org

  • July 26, Agronomy Department field day will be held in Davis, CA; contact Durga Poudel, University of California Davis Department of Agronomy and Range Science, (530) 752- 2023; e-mail ddpoudel@ucdavis.edu

  • August 1-3, "Organic: Growing into the 21st Century" will be held in Oakland, CA; contact Organic Farming Research Foundation, P.O. Box 440, Santa Cruz, CA 95061; (831) 426- 6606; e-mail research@ofrf.org

  • August 1-4, National Association of Conservation Districts' Northeastern Regional Meeting will be held in Baltimore, MD; contact NACD, 9150 West Jewell, #102, Lakewood, CO 80232; (303) 988-1810.

  • August 4-8, "Empowering Communities," the 62nd Annual Meeting of the Rural Sociological Society, will be held in Chicago, IL; contact RSS, c/o Department of Sociology, 510 Arntzen Hall, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225; (360) 650-7295; e-mail ruralsoc@cc.wwu.edu

  • August 5, Midwest Soybean Conference will be held in Chicago, IL; contact Global Soy Forum ‘99, 1101 W. Peabody, #165, Urbana, IL 61801; (271) 244-7384.

  • August 8-11, "Walk on the Wild Side," the Soil and Water Conservation Society's Annual Conference, will be held in Biloxi, MS; contact SWCS, 7515 NE Ankeny Road, Ankeny, IA 50021; on the Internet, http://www.swcs.org/.

  • August 13-15, Northeast Organic Farming Association's 25th Annual Summer Conference and Celebration of Rural Life will be held in Amherst, MA; contact NOFA, 411 Sheldon Road, Barre, MA 01005; (978) 355-2853 or -2270.

  • August 20-21, Organization for Competitive Markets' Annual Meeting will be held in Omaha, NE; contact OCM, RR2, Box 73, Hickman, NE 68372; (860) 738-9755; e-mail the.ocm@snet.net

  • August 25-27, National Symposium on the Future of American Agriculture will be held in Athens, GA; contact Barbara Marable, Georgia Center for Continuing Education, (706) 542- 1585; e-mail marableb@gactr.uga.edu
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Home News & Events Alternative Agriculture News -- July '99

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