Alternative Agriculture News, 4/97

                            Alternative Agriculture News
                                     April, 1997

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

                                        * * *

If You Are Interested in Sustainable Agriculture...
       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 11, No. 4) includes articles on
a first study of managing vertebrates in cover crops, the links
between pesticide use and pesticide residues, and production-side
progress and demand-side constraints in sustainable agriculture
in the Corn Belt.  Abstracts from the conference on
"Environmental Enhancement Through Agriculture," sponsored by the
Wallace Institute, Tufts University, and American Farmland Trust
in November, 1995, are also in the new issue.  Subscriptions to
AJAA are $44 for libraries, $24 for individuals, and $12 for
students; contact the Wallace Institute, 9200 Edmonston Road,
#117, Greenbelt, MD 20770; (301) 441-8777; e-mail

Table of Contents: 
Avery's Policy Recommendations "Fall Short," Say Professors                   1
EPA's New Law Will Promote "Safer, Effective Pest Control"                    2
Wallace Had "Second Thoughts" About His Revolution                            3
Wallace Institute Elects Officers, New Members                                3
Borlaug Criticizes Environmental "Extremism"                                  4
As Development Threatens Farmland, Some Towns Fight Back                      4
National Soil Tilth Lab Studies "Sustaining Surface"                          5
Research Improvements Needed to Ensure Sustainable Ag                         5
Positions                                                                     5
Upcoming Events                                                               5

       The policy recommendations made by Dennis Avery in an
article in Choices magazine "fall short of resolving serious
global poverty and environmental problems," according to two
professors who responded to Avery's article.  Both the Avery
article and the response by Fred Fitzhusen and Craig Davis of
Ohio State University appeared in the First Quarter, 1997, issue
of the peer-reviewed magazine of the American Agricultural
Economics Association.  Asserting that "the biggest danger to the
world's natural environment today is low-yield agriculture,"
Avery advocated the adoption of "advanced farming methods" and
concluded that "the only food strategies likely to protect the
world's remaining wildlife are further advances in sustainable
crop and livestock yields, and radically liberalized trade in
farm products."  He also criticized the Wallace Institute's
publication, Intensive Agriculture and Environmental Quality:
Examining the Newest Agricultural Myth, as making "tiny and
poorly-founded criticisms."
       In their response to Avery's article, Fitzhusen and Davis
wrote that "Avery's future scenario is particularly dependent on
major increases in per capita income among the world's poor;
significant increases in environmentally benign, yield-increasing
technologies for food and fiber production on prime agricultural
lands; and a global free trade regime.....Avery exposes his lack
of understanding of biodiversity and its causes, confusing the
conservation of wildlife and wild lands with the more general and
critical concerns of conserving overall biodiversity....The
construction of social policy on the basis of selective use of
what we understand about the causes of biological diversity is
poor science and makes for poor policy."  Their main criticisms
"are that he understates the potential downstream environmental
impacts of agricultural intensification, overlooks the extreme
difficulty of fostering and targeting economic development to
reduce extensive poverty in much of the developing world, and
grossly oversimplifies the complexity of the underlying causation
of species distribution and abundance."

       The Environmental Protection Agency's plan for implementing
the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act is based on five guiding
principles that include "promotion of safer, effective pest
control methods," and "a protective, health-based approach to
food safety."  The Food Quality Protection Act requires major
changes in how the EPA regulates pesticides, includes new food
safety protections, and requires the EPA to address new
considerations in establishing tolerances for pesticide residues
in food.  Those considerations include assessing total pesticide
exposure from all non-occupational sources, and assessing the
effects of exposure to multiple pesticides with a common
mechanism of toxicity.
       The major provisions of the new implementation plan include
establishing a single health-based standard for all pesticide
residues in food, whether raw or processed; requiring the EPA to
reassess roughly 9,000 existing permissible pesticide tolerance
levels in food to ensure they meet the new standards; requiring
the EPA to develop consumer information on the risks and benefits
of pesticides used in or on foods, as well as recommendations to
consumers for reducing dietary exposure to pesticides while
maintaining a healthy diet; and ensuring that all pesticides will
be periodically re-evaluated to make sure they meet current
testing and safety standards.
       The implementation plan is available from the Office of
Pesticide Programs Public Docket at (703) 305-5805, and on the
Internet at http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/lawsregs.htm.

       Henry A. Wallace promoted "an American revolution" of
institutional and technological change which "transformed the
ways of farming, the farm population, and the agricultural
system" -- and also caused him to have second thoughts during the
last years of his life, according to Dr. Richard S. Kirkendall,
who presented the 1997 Henry A. Wallace Annual Lecture last
month.  Dr. Kirkendall, the Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Professor
of American History at the University of Washington in Seattle,
has devoted a considerable part of his research and writing to
the life and philosophy of Wallace and the Wallace family.  His
speech, entitled "Second Thoughts on the Agricultural Revolution:
Henry A. Wallace In His Last Years," quoted Wallace as saying, "I
fear we may be headed even in the Corn Belt for Big Agriculture
as well as Big Labor and Big Business and Big Government." 
Although supportive of the family farmers who had adopted the new
ways of farming, "Henry worried that the demographic component of
the revolution would seriously damage the national character,"
Dr. Kirkendall said.  Wallace believed that "farm habits" had
been "the strength of the U.S.," which led him to ask, "How long
can a civilization exist with less than eight percent of the next
generation acquainted with the virtues inculcated by farm
living?"  It was this idea about "the importance of 'farm habits'
for the national character that persuaded Henry to press once
again for a substantial farm population.  As he saw things now,
this national need for people on farms meant that small farmers
should be held on the land."  The solutions that attracted
Wallace's attention were part-time farming and industrial
decentralization, according to Dr. Kirkendall.  Wallace even met
with President Lyndon Johnson about the need for a "program of
decentralization of industry so that most of the smaller and more
inefficient farmers may be in commuting distance of a job in
       "Henry A. Wallace's idea of an alternative agriculture
emphasized the expansion of part-time farming, not technological
change," said Dr. Kirkendall.  "His alternative could serve his
enthusiasm for the psychological benefits of living on farms
without threatening the modern farming in which he also believed. 
The nation, he maintained, needed both the new ways of using the
land and a large population living and working on it.  The
modernization of farming had sharply reduced the percentage of
Americans who experienced farm life, but Henry proposed a way of
turning the movement of the farm population around that would not
overturn the modern farming system and its practices."

       The Wallace Institute Board of Directors last month elected
new officers for the coming year and installed four new members. 
The new President is Dr. Frederick Kirschenmann, farmer and
manager, Kirschenmann Family Farms, Windsor, N.D.; Vice President
is Dr. Cornelia Butler Flora, Professor of Sociology and
Director, North Central Regional Center for Rural Development,
Iowa State University; Secretary is Dr. Frederick Magdoff,
Professor, Department of Plant and Soil Science, University of
Vermont; and Treasurer is Jose Montenegro, Director, Rural
Development Center, Salinas, CA.  The new members of the board
are Desmond A. Jolly, Agricultural and Consumer Economist,
Department of Agricultural Economics, University of California,
Davis; Deborah A. Neher, Assistant Professor, Department of
Biology, University of Toledo; Robert I. Papendick, Professor
Emeritus, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State
University; and Frederick V. Payton, Assistant Professor,
Institute of Community and Area Development, University of

       Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his
leadership in defeating famine in Asia, the Middle East, and
Latin America, fears that environmental "extremism" is
threatening the scientific advances of the "Green Revolution" and
preventing their use in Africa, according to The Des Moines
Register (March 9, 1997).  The Green Revolution combined plant-
breeding advances with efficient use of fertilizer, pesticides,
and irrigation water.  Borlaug now contends that influential
environmentalists have persuaded international lending
institutions and foundations that the use of fertilizers and
pesticides threatens to damage the environment, according to The
Register.  He also said that "environmental nonsense" could lead
to a collapse of food production in the industrialized world. 
However, "the Green Revolution was not great for everybody," said
James Parr, a retired USDA soil scientist, in an accompanying
article.  While the Green Revolution features high-yielding
varieties of wheat and rice, Africans are much better able to
produce traditional "dry land cereals -- sorghum, millets, some
legumes," he said.

       Sprawling growth threatens the high quality farmland on
which 79 percent of U.S. fruit, 69 percent of its vegetables, and
52 percent of its dairy goods are now produced, according to a
new report by the American Farmland Trust.  Of 181 major land
resource areas the report analyzed, 70 percent had prime or
unique farmland in the path of rapid urban development; 4.3
million acres of prime and unique farmland were overrun by
development between 1982 and 1992.  But "advocates of farmland
preservation are forging the political ties and financial tools
to steer developers' backhoes away from farmland," according to
an article in The New York Times (March 20, 1997).  "Numerous
states and communities have in recent years experimented with tax
and zoning policies to encourage farmers at the urban edge to
hang on.  And both private and public programs to buy development
rights are spreading."

       To the scientists at the National Soil Tilth Lab in Ames,
Iowa, "it's not just dirt they are probing -- it's the planet's
sustaining surface," according to a feature article by Richard
Wolkomir in Smithsonian (March, 1997).  The laboratory "studies
soil as an ecological system -- a system that includes humans,"
it said.  Included in that system are the effects of modern
agriculture: "Higher doses of fertilizer and herbicides no longer
seem to automatically generate higher yields.  Meanwhile,
agricultural chemicals are showing up as pollutants in the water
table."  The lab also studies worms, which have become important
since the rise of "no-till" farming because they break up debris
and allow rain and oxygen to percolate through the soil.  Debris
from no-till farming contains carbon and nitrogen that could
enrich soil, but, according to the article, "as long as the
debris lies aboveground, its nutrients are locked up."  A weed
ecologist at the lab is also studying how farmers can avoid
spraying herbicides by deploying weeds to fight weeds -- growing
"good" weeds that could crowd out the "bad" weeds. 

       Improvements in the public agricultural research and
education system are necessary to ensure agriculture's long-run
competitiveness, enhance its environmental performance, and
improve rural community well-being, according to testimony given
last month before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition
and Forestry by Dave Ervin, Director of the Wallace Institute's
Policy Studies Program.  He recommended dedicating specific
funding to build an improved public agricultural research
accountability system led by USDA with full stakeholder
participation; targeting increased research funding for
environmental and other public goods; and establishing a national
commission on extension to assess innovative reforms across the
country that can help safeguard the sustainability of
agriculture.  "Public research and education should lead the
development and adoption of sustainable agriculture," he

       University of Minnesota, Department of Soil, Water, and
Climate seeks applicants for a postdoctoral associate position in
soil and water quality; send letter of interest, curriculum
vitae, and names of three references to Dr. Deborah Allan,
Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, 439 Borlaug Hall,
University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108; e-mail
       Nick's Organic Farm seeks part-time farm workers for organic
vegetable and grain farm; contact Nick Maravell, 8565 Horseshoe
Lane, Potomac, MD 20854; (301) 983-2167.

       April-December, the Rodale Institute Experimental Farm in
Kutztown, PA, offers workshops, plant and book sales, special
events, and training sessions on sustainable gardening, farming,
composting, and herb growing; for a complete schedule of events,
contact the Institute at (610) 683-1400.
       April 30-May 2, 27th Annual BioCycle National Conference on
Composting and Recycling will be held in Philadelphia, PA;
contact BioCycle at 1-800-661-4905.
       May 4-7, Natural Foods Supershow will be held in New
Orleans, LA; contact Craig Gould, DSC Group, 194 Main Ave.,
Norwalk, CT 06851; (203) 847-7000.
       May 4-8, "Beneficial Co-Utilization of Agricultural,
Municipal and Industrial By-Products," sponsored by the
Agricultural Research Service/USDA, will be held in Beltsville,
MD; contact Nancy McGaha, Bldg. 003, Room 232, 10300 Baltimore
Ave., Beltsville, MD 20705-2350; (301) 504-6591; or Patricia
Millner, Soil Microbial Systems Laboratory, (301) 504-8163, e-
mail pmillner@asrr.arsusda.gov.
       May 5-7, "Native Plants as Minor Crops" will be held in
Richland, WA; contact Dora Rumsey, P.O. Box 646230, Pullman, WA
99164-6230; (509) 372-7256; e-mail rumsey@tricity.wsu.edu
       May 7-9, "Communities Working for Wetlands" will be held in
Alexandria, VA; contact Terrene Institute, 4 Herbert St.,
Alexandria, VA 22305; 1-800-726-4853; e-mail terrene@gnn.com
       May 9-11, "Small-Scale Agricultural Production and Marketing
for the Southwest: Farming and Gardening Under Dry Conditions"
will be held at NewFarms, HC69 Box 62, Rociada, N.M. 87742; (505)
       May 18-20, "Exceeding Expectations," the 1997 Wildlands
Conference, will be held in Atlanta, GA; contact Wildlife Habitat
Council, 1010 Wayne Ave., #920, Silver Spring, MD 20910; (301)
588-8994; e-mail whc@cais.com
       May 22-25, "International Conference on Sustainable Urban
Food Systems" will be held in Toronto, Canada; contact Jennifer
Welsh, Centre for Studies in Food Security, Ryerson Polytechnic
University, Toronto, Ontario, M5B 2K3 Canada; (416) 979-5000 ext.
6931; e-mail jwelsh@acs.ryerson.ca
       May 25-28, "8th Global Warming International Conference &
Expo" will be held in New York, N.Y.; contact Prof. Sinyan Shen,
c/o Global Warming International Center, 22W381 75th St.,
Naperville, IL 60565-9245; (630) 910-1551; e-mail