[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture Newsletter
The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture Newsletter
July/August 1997 -- Vol. 23, No. 4
P.O. Box 588
Poteau, OK 74953
Voice: (918) 647-9123
Fax: (918) 647-8712
Web Site: http://www.kerrcenter.com
Newsletter On-line: http://www.kerrcenter.com/nwsltr/news23-4.htm
Inside This Issue
-A new vision for rural Oklahoma
-Thirty-year-old agroforestry trees still working on Kerr Ranch
-Oklahoma shiitake growers form association and pursue joint marketing
-Foraging for profits
-Setting goals for the farm, the family, and yourself
-Feeding strategies in replacement heifer development
-Controversy over corporate hog farming was a major impetus of new
legislation in Oklahoma
-Microbiological activity in native soil
A new vision for rural Oklahoma
Michelle Stephens, Rural Development and Public Policy Director
With a call for rural communities to turn away from "desperation economics,"
Jim Horne, president of The Kerr Center, launched a two-day conference on rural
development in Oklahoma at St. Gregory's College in Shawnee, OK. Horne said
that too often economically-depressed rural communities are "apt to grab
whatever development comes their way" without serious consideration of the
long-term consequences. He urged rural leaders to consider new ideas and to
develop their communities "from within," rather than looking for industries who
pay little, pollute, and export their profits to headquarters outside Oklahoma.
Sarah Vogel, former North Dakota commissioner of agriculture, highlighted
such development from within during her presentation. North Dakota farmers
have formed cooperatives to add value to their crops. For example, wheat farmers
who refer to themselves as "pasta growers" opened a pasta factory that uses
member-grown wheat. According to Vogel, such ventures have created "co-op
fever" in her state, resulting in millions of new investments, thousands of new
jobs, and "a sense of renewal and optimism."
In presenting information on other successful cooperatives, she urged the
audience to make a habit of asking "Is this good for the farmer?" when
considering rural development schemes. This question is especially important in
Oklahoma as the number of farms continues to decline statewide. Per capita
personal income in rural areas lags behind income in metropolitan areas of the
state. Officials from the Oklahoma Dept. of Commerce and the Oklahoma Dept.
of Agriculture provided an overview of the economic situation in rural Oklahoma.
Presenters also talked about environmental issues, contract agriculture, job
training, rural leadership, and resources available to communities and farmers.
The importance of rural America to families highlighted by speakers such as
Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Howard and Congressman Wes
Watkins who also contrasted American farm policy with that of France. The
agriculture minister of France once told him, "We will do whatever it takes to
sustain our agricultural base." Oklahoma House of Representatives Agriculture
Committee Chairman M. C. Leist spoke of the need to develop an economic
system that will keep the next generation from leaving the state in search of work.
Other speakers addressed some of the problems to be overcome in sustaining
Oklahoma agriculture. Oklahoma Farmers Union President Phillip Klutts sounded
a warning against corporate domination of production agriculture and the
dwindling of wholesale markets. Farm Bureau Representative Richard Herren
expressed concern about community banks being taken over by bigger banks not
as interested in lending to farmers. State Treasurer Robert Butkin spoke of the
state's efforts to keep money available to farmers through the Ag Link deposit
program. State monies are made available to rural banks to lend to farmers
wanting to try alternative farming enterprises.
Just what alternative enterprises are thriving nationally was the focus of Drake
University Agriculture Law Professor Neil Hamilton. Hamilton presented a slide
show showing community-supported farms, direct marketing, farmers' markets,
community gardens, and chefs who support local growers. The Iowa professor
questioned the assumption that American consumers value low prices to the
exclusion of all other concerns. He speculated that consumers might be willing to
pay a bit more for their food if they knew it was sustaining rural communities.
The conference ended with a number of success stories: Oklahomans who
have succeeded, sometime against great odds, in agriculture-related businesses.
Bill Ford, president of Shawnee Mills, described the challenges facing a regional
producer of flour and baking mixes. Charlotte Haley, owner of Charlee's Gourmet
Beef Jerky in Bokoshe, related her struggle to get loan money and her hassles
with state and federal inspectors.
The conference was sponsored by The Kerr Center, Oklahoma Farmers Union,
Oklahoma Dept. of Agriculture, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, and Oklahoma Coop.
Ext. Service. It was a result of The Kerr Center's new program to monitor and
analyze rural development and agriculture policy. The Center hopes to bring
people together to continue the debate begun at this conference. For more
information on the program, contact me at (405) 772-6701 or the Center at
Thirty-year-old agroforestry trees still working on Kerr Ranch
Tim Snell, Agroforestry Specialist
Agroforestry has gotten a lot of attention in the last five years as universities,
government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations have initiated
programs and formed policies to make agroforestry a viable tool for American
agriculture and land management. New agroforestry organizations have formed at
the national and local level. Old organizations have changed their outlooks to be
more encouraging and accepting of agroforestry as a land management practice.
The reason for the attention and acceptance of agroforestry is the many benefits
that result from the successful combination of "working trees" and agriculture.
Benefits to the environment include improved water quality, enhanced wildlife
habitat, greater biological diversity, and improved aesthetics. Farmers and
landowners benefit from income generated from tree products and from the
effects such as shade and shelter that the trees have on their agricultural
The National Center for Agroforestry was formed to advance the knowledge
and use of agroforestry practices in the United States. It is located on the east
campus of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, and funded by the USDA in
a partnership between the Forest Service and the Natural Resource Conservation
Service. The purpose of the center is to accelerate the development of
agroforestry technologies to attain more economically, environmentally, and
socially sustainable ecosystems.
The National Center for Agroforestry interacts with a national network of
cooperators to conduct research, develop technologies and tools, establish
demonstrations, and provide useful information to natural resource professionals.
They publish a newsletter and a series titled Agroforestry Notes. Last month, I
received a copy of Agroforestry Notes titled The Outdoor Living Barn: A
Specialized Windbreak (AF Note-2). Even though there is an increased interest
today in agroforestry, some of the technologies have been used for many years.
This publication provides a good example of this and contains technical
information to plan and implement an outdoor living barn to suit a producer's
livestock protection needs. An outdoor living barn is a specialized windbreak
strategically located in open grasslands and pasture areas to protect livestock
during severe weather situations. The windbreaks pay for themselves by cutting
livestock losses, lowering feed costs, and sustaining animal health.
The publication also had a drawing that depicts various design configurations
for outdoor living barns. The shapes look like roman or runic script and include
U, L, T, and X. The shape that caught my eye was the X. It would provide shelter
from wind coming in any direction and would be easy to fence as a four cornered
square for establishment and management purposes. Then I remembered where I
had seen this type of windbreak. It was on old aerial photos of the Kerr Ranch.
The aerial photos were taken in the 1960s when the windbreaks were several
years old. When I inquired about these areas, ranch employees told me they were
duck or wildlife plots that the cows loved to calve in. They were effective as both
calving windbreaks and wildlife plots.
The ranch windbreaks were planted with double rows of black locust trees and
were fenced with barbed wire and wooden posts. The fence protected the trees
during establishment. The black locust trees not only survived but sent up root
sprouts. Many of the original trees have died, but the windbreak is still effective
because the root sprouts matured into full-size trees. The original shape is still
visible in some of the windbreaks, but the root sprouting has turned most of them
into large patches of black locust which also provide good wind protection.
Today, these areas are favored for shade, calving, and winter protection. Wild
trees and forbs became established in the areas, providing wildlife habitat for
The wooden fence posts have failed now, but the windbreaks are still working.
Fencing was really only needed for the first few years to let the trees get
established. Today, we have the option of electric fences which, if properly
installed and maintained, can replace the barbed wire fences at a lower cost. Once
trees are established, the electric fence can be removed and reused to establish
When looking at the old aerial photos of the ranch, you can see how the
locations were chosen and why they were so important to the cattle operation.
Many of the cattle pastures had timbered areas connected to them or inside of
them, but the areas where the windbreaks were established were virtually treeless.
Cattle need protection from winter winds and calving and shade areas. These
windbreaks have provided benefits for 30 years. The blossoms in the early spring
are a good nectar source for bees. They can even be used for perfume production.
As these black locust die, they serve as firewood. They can also be cut for gate
sticks and fence posts.
These windbreaks are a great example of working trees. Proper design,
protection, and species selection have kept them working long enough that the
cost per year has been minimal. These trees meet the requirements of a
sustainable cattle operation. They have proven to be cost effective but also
provide environmental benefits.
Agroforestry Information Sources
-National Agroforestry Center, East Campus-UNL, Lincoln, NE 68583-0822;
-Association for Temperate Agroforestry, P.O. Box 266, Lake Oswego,
OR 97034-0031; (503) 697-3370
Oklahoma shiitake growers form association and pursue joint marketing ventures
Alan Ware, Horticulture Specialist
After several organizational meetings in the fall of 1996, the Oklahoma
Shiitake Growers Association had its first meeting on January 2, 1997. The
growers developed three objectives for the organization.
-To provide information and education to growers on production and
marketing of shiitake mushrooms and to educate consumers and promote
shiitakes in Oklahoma
-To provide a forum that allows growers to communicate and support each
other and work jointly on projects
-To investigate research projects, grant opportunities, and support legislation
to benefit Oklahoma shiitake growers
The association officers are Art Bisges, Perkins, president; Doug Williams,
Perkins, vice president; and Alan Ware, Poteau, secretary-treasurer. Board
members are Bob Reeder, Sid Spencer, Daryl Bailey, and James Vaughn.
At the first meeting, growers emphasized the need to promote their product.
The association's first promotional opportunity came in March when they set up
an exhibit at the "Oklahoma Ag Day Mini-Fair." This is an annual event at the
state capitol and is sponsored by the Oklahoma Dept. of Agriculture. Members
thought they would get a better response from the public if they had food samples
available. They prepared a shiitake dip, spread it on crackers, and offered samples
to anyone passing their exhibit. Comments on the dip were positive, and several
people wanted to know where it could be purchased. This response prompted the
growers to consider the development of a value-added product.
Representatives from the association met at the Oklahoma Food and
Agricultural Products Research and Technology Center in May with the Center's
Director, Dr. Lowell Satterlee, and several staff professionals to discuss how they
needed to proceed. The Center's staff was helpful and attentive during the visit
where many ideas were exchanged. Dr. Satterlee suggested the group take all of
the ideas discussed and develop a business plan. He told the group that his staff
would do 49% of the work, but they had to do 51%. A contact person was
appointed to answer any questions.
The association decided to develop four different dried shiitake products
including a dip mix and a soup mix. They are currently working on a business
plan and recipes.
Once the recipes are ready, the Center will assist the group with taste tests,
processing procedures, product packaging, and market planning. The group plans
to start small. They have learned through direct fresh sales of shiitakes that it's
important to have a consistently high-quality product.
The association hopes to be processing one of the value-added products by
Christmas. However, they realize there are many obstacles to overcome before
their product reaches a store's shelf. Periodic updates will appear in this
newsletter. If you have any questions about the Oklahoma Shiitake Growers
Association or value-added processing, contact The Kerr Center for more
Foraging for profits
Chris Agee, Forage Specialist
In the past, cattle prices exceeded production costs by such a large margin that
cattlemen didn't really need to track expenses closely; just run the cattle and the
profits would come. It's no longer a reasonable expectation for a young farmer to
purchase a small parcel of decent grazing land, run cattle, and make a living. As
any economist will avidly point out, there is a big difference between making
money and making a living. Land prices, cattle markets, input costs, and
consumer demand have all contributed to this situation. In response to this reality,
63% of the average farmer's income now comes from off the farm. In the
southeast, excluding Florida, nearly 50% of the beef cow herds are less than
50 head, 70% are less than 100 head (USDA Agricultural Statistics). While many
of these operations are at best break-even propositions, families continue to
subsidize the farm due to the lifestyle it provides.
Opportunities to increase small beef unit profitability still abound. Capitalizing
on these opportunities requires stepping back from the traditional beef production
scenario and reanalyzing the entire production cycle grazing, genetics, breeding,
calving, culling, stockering, finishing, and marketing. Consumer acceptance of
the end product may eventually affect all aspects of production. Grading will
move away from the averages, and cattle falling outside the targeted range will be
heavily discounted. Good for the industry, bad for marginal producers who fail to
match herd genetics with demand. Retained ownership, production and marketing
alliances, and direct marketing to local and niche markets are all viable options
for the small producer who refuses to accept the sale-barn status quo. Many a
cow-calf operator has produced an excellent crop of calves only to give them
away at the sale barn.
One opportunity to increase profitability of the small or large beef unit lies in
grazing management. An interesting study comparing animal performance on
continuously or rotationally grazed endophyte-free tall fescue-bermudagrass
pastures (Hoveland et al., 1997) illustrates this point well. This replicated
three-year study examined cow-calf production on four 40-acre pastures. Two
pastures were continuously grazed; the other two were each divided into 12
paddocks allowing two days grazing and 22 days of rest for each paddock. The
rotationally grazed pastures allowed for a 38% higher stocking rate (0.5 AU/acre
vs. 0.69 AU/acre), a 37% increase in calf production per acre (243 lb/acre vs.
334 lb/acre), and 31% less winter hay consumption. The endophyte-free tall
fescue, which fails to persist along with bermudagrass when continuously grazed,
persisted under rotational grazing and provided more winter grazing. This study
demonstrates the bottom line impact grazing management can have on a pasture.
Increasing production while decreasing feed costs is a typical result of pasture
improvement and grazing management.
Carrying this study further, we can make some assumptions and apply some
numbers. There are, of course, many different ways to cross-fence and develop
water. For ease of calculation, assume that the perimeter of a 40-acre pasture is
already fenced and reasonably rectangular. Additional cost of 1.5 miles of
single-strand electric interior cross-fence and labor to create 12 paddocks is
approximately $950. Add another $250 for an energizer, grounding rods,
lightening coils, etc. to total $1200. Assume 12 equal paddocks of 3 1/3 acres
each (220' x 660'). Each water tank provides water to four paddocks with a single
water line feeding all three tanks at a cost of $600. Total cost of interior fencing
and water points is approximately $1800.
In the grazing comparison, rotational grazing produced an additional 91 lb of
calf gain/acre at 85›/lb, yielding $77.35/acre or a total for the 40 acres of $3094.
This is a 72% return on the $1800 fencing and water investment. Winter hay
consumption was reduced 31% to 1680 lb/hay/cow on rotational pastures and
2430 lb/hay/cow on continuously grazed pasture. At $50/ton, this equates to a fed
hay savings of $18.75/cow. Further reductions in the amount of fed hay could be
accomplished through stockpiling bermudagrass and fescue and stripgrazing the
stockpile. From these numbers, it's evident that the increased production and
reduced feed costs on the rotationally grazed system produced a significant return
on the investment made in interior cross-fencing and watering points.
Keep in mind that the figures applied here are estimates, and individual results
will vary. The trend is clear, though, subdividing pastures and increasing grazing
management are cost-effective measures that can make a big difference in farm
- Hoveland, C.S., M.A. McCann, and N.S. Hill. 1997. Rotational vs. continuous
stocking of beef cows and calves on mixed endophyte-free tall fescue-
bermudagrass pasture. J. Prod. Agric. 10:245-250.
Setting goals for the farm, the family, and yourself
Elise Mitchell, Livestock Specialist
If you don't know where you're going, it doesn't matter which road you take.
You won't know when you get there anyway. When it comes to goals, most of us
have a general idea of what we want to achieve. Often, though, we don't take the
time to think about the specifics and put our goals on paper. Written goals provide
a framework for management decisions, and without them it's easy to lose track
of where you want to go.
Written goals are important no matter what type of operation you have:
horticulture, livestock, diversified. Goals aren't set in stone because they tend to
change with time. What you start with will evolve. The important thing is to get
started. There are many different approaches to goal setting. Find or develop one
that works for you and use it. Be honest with yourself; goals should be realistic
The following goal-setting approach and examples are from a South Dakota
State University fact sheet. It is a four-tiered pyramid. At the base is a mission
statement. The mission is an all encompassing plan for the future of the business.
Long-term goals form the second tier and are specific objectives for the next three
to five years. The third level is composed of short-term goals of one to three
years. They support the long-term goals. At the top of the pyramid are tactics.
They are specific activities that need to be done to accomplish each short-term
The mission statement should outline your personal, family, and business
values. It should include a vision of where you would like the business to be in
the future. The mission statement should help all involved to understand the
purpose and direction of the business.
Example: Maintain a prosperous beef cattle ranch that produces superior
quality cattle at an economically sustainable level of costs; improve the natural
resource base of the ranch; look for growth opportunities so the business will be
sufficiently large to support the next generation of family members; and
encourage family members and employees to be an integral part of and leaders in
Long-term goals need to DRIVE the operation. DRIVE stands for Directional,
Reasonable, Inspiring, Visible, and Eventual. These characteristics should be kept
in mind when setting long-term goals. Long-term goals may be conflicting; e.g.,
increased profits and increased leisure time. These will need to be prioritized
according to how essential they are to the mission statement. Examples of
long-term goals include:
-Increase the percentage of calves weaned from cows exposed from 75% to
85% over the next four years.
-Decrease the level of debt relative to the asset base from 40% to 25% in the
next seven years.
Short-term goals are more specific than long-term goals. Short-term goals
should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Rewarding, and Timed.
They may be for one year or one production cycle. If it takes longer than three
years to achieve, it should be considered a long-term goal. Examples of
short-term goals to increase percentage of calves weaned include:
-Decrease calf death loss from 6% to 3% this year.
-Increase conception rate of heifers from 80% to 90% over the next two years.
The top of the pyramid could be considered the daily to-do list. Tactics are
specific actions, when they will be done, and who will do them. They are often
task- or event-oriented. Examples of tactics to help reduce calf death loss include:
-Cow herd foreman will see that all calves are tagged and vaccinated within
12 hours of birth.
-Cow herd foreman will see that all pairs are moved from calving corral to
hillside pasture within 36 hours of birth.
The book, Intensive Grazing Management: Forage, Animals, Men, and Profits
offers another approach to goal setting. The first suggested step is formulating a
goal or goals that give meaning to the total organization. Here a goal must have
two parts (1) a quantity and(or) quality statement and (2) a time or date in the
future the quantity and(or) quality statement is to be completed. Goals should
state something that is definable, be future time-oriented, and be personalized.
"Make a lot of money" doesn't fit the above criteria. "Reduce the mortgage by
$50,000 during the next five years" does.
The next step is to inventory the resources your operation has on hand or is
available to it. The different inventories can help determine how to best use those
resources to attain the goals. It may also point out goals that aren't achievable
with the available resources. Inventories include:
-Basic Resource Inventory: number and acreage of each pasture and the kind
of forage, soils, etc.
-Physical Inventory: equipment, buildings, fences, and watering facilities.
Condition, expected life, and market value should be noted for each item.
-Livestock and Game Inventory: kinds, breeds, sex and age. Include
production data like weaning weights. For wildlife, determine kinds and
location and estimate numbers.
-Financial Inventory: cash on hand, loans, debts, borrowing ability, cash flow,
past balance sheets, any financial or enterprise analysis that have been made,
-Personnel Inventory: List skills and abilities for each person involved in the
operation. Include job or work preferences and outside interests and hobbies.
Describe consultants, tax accountants, etc. used in connection with the
operation, their good and bad points, and possible alternatives.
Step three is setting objectives. Objectives are broad blueprints of how you
plan to meet the stated goals. They could be thought of as a series of enterprise
analysis. If one of your goals is to pay $50,000 on the mortgage principal,
diversifying may be a way to increase profits. Use inventories to look for new
opportunities. One objective could be to start a trail riding business if you have
unproductive scenic areas. If you have good game bird populations, they could be
managed for a hunting lease.
The fourth step is setting production targets for each objective. A production
target is the amount of product (pounds of lamb, bushels of corn) that it takes to
make the enterprise economical. Production targets together with objectives can
become an enterprise analysis. After production targets have been set for each
objective, rework them so they form an overall management program.
As you can see, there are similarities between the two approaches. Most goal-
setting strategies go from broad, less detailed, long-term statements to very
specific, short-term tasks. It doesn't matter what method you choose or which
terms you use; e.g., goal, objective, target; the important thing is to write your
goals down. If you work alone, the only opinions to worry about are your own. If
family members are involved, they need to be included in the goal-setting
process. Remember that goals can include not only business ambitions but also
personal and family aspirations. Goals can be achieved quicker if everyone is
headed in the same direction. An example given to illustrate conflicting goals
You plan to A.I. heifers the first two weeks in April. The rest of the family has
planned a vacation to Disney World over spring break (the first two weeks in
April). Someone isn't going to be happy. If everyone had been part of the goal
setting, chances are the conflict could have been avoided.
Now that the goals are set, they need to be used and periodically reviewed.
Your goals should guide management decisions. If a goal is to reduce the amount
of hay needed by 50% over the next three years, you may not need that new baler,
even if it is a steal. Goals will change with time, and as they are achieved new
ones need to be set. Planning a regular review is a good idea. The more specific
the goals, the more frequently they need to be reevaluated. Annual reviews may
be sufficient for "mission statements" or "goals." "Tactics" and "performance
targets" may need to be looked at weekly. Again, you need to figure out what
works for you and get started setting goals.
-Feuz, D.M. 19--. Goal setting. South Dakota State Univ., Brookings, SD.
-Smith, B., P. Leung, and G. Love. 1986. Intensive grazing management: Forage,
animals, men, and profits. The Graziers Hui, Kamuela, HI.
RESEARCH UPDATE: Feeding strategies in replacement heifer development
Brian M. Freking, Livestock Specialist
A feed supplementation study was conducted with crossbred heifers consisting
of Angus (AN), Senepol (SE), and Chianina (CA) breeds. Heifers were allotted at
random to management treatments blocked within breed composition and weight.
All treatments were predicted to feed heifers to gain enough weight to reach
target weight at breeding time by May 1. The first treatment was to feed a 14%
mixed concentrate ration (SC14) daily with free choice hay and allow heifers to
graze rotationally. This treatment predicted a gain of 1.35 lb/day using ration
analysis software from Kansas State University. A second treatment was to feed
soybean meal every other day with hay and rotational grazing. This treatment
predicted a gain of 1.07 lb/day. The third treatment was to feed cottonseed meal
every other day with hay and rotational grazing. This treatment predicted a gain
of 1.14 lb/day. These treatments were set up to be iso-nitrogenous for the total
diet. All calves were fed SC14 and rotationally grazed after weaning until animals
had adapted to the facilities and rotations (Adaptation Phase). Following the
adaptation phase, cattle were weighed and sorted into treatment groups. The next
phase included the feeding treatments which lasted 90 days. Performance was
analyzed on dry matter intake, rate of gain, cost of gain, and feed efficiency.
The entire text of the research update including figures and tables is on-line at
Controversy over corporate hog farming was a major impetus of new legislation
Michelle Stephens, Rural Development and Public Policy Director
Arguably the most controversial issue addressed during Oklahoma's 1997
legislative session was an agricultural one--corporate swine farming. Grassroot
citizen groups sought reasonable regulation of the corporate swine industry.
Through their tenacious efforts, the first significant regulation of industrial hog
production was achieved with the passage of HB 1522, a bill that will regulate
large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and the approval of rules
promulgated by the Department of Agriculture.
History of Oklahoma's industrial hog production controversy
The corporate swine controversy began brewing in 1991 after a bill created a
broad exception to the anti-corporate farming statute found at Title 18
O.S.Supp.1996, 951 et seq. 1020. The swine industry was "not a problem" in
1991 when Oklahoma had 190,000 hogs in production (Hinton, 1997). However,
the broad exception and the lax environmental regulation of large swine farms
made Oklahoma an attractive state for industrial hog production. The state's swine
production changed quickly with little public debate about the implications of
inviting industrial hog production into the state to operate under an "honor
system" type of regulatory scheme. However, corporate producers touted
Oklahoma for molding "state policy in order to bring in new hog and poultry
units." (Freese and Fee, 1994)
In the past two years, Oklahoma has tripled its swine breeding herd numbers
which resulted in an increased market share of 359%. In 1997, Oklahoma's hog
population totals more than 1.3 million (Hinton, 1997). National Hog Farmer
recently reported that within the next few years there will be enough production
capacity within a 100-mile radius of Guymon, OK, to produce 10% of the U.S.
hog marketings (Vansickle, 1997).
Loose environmental regulations and generous water laws appear to be the
attraction for corporate hog farms. Earlier this year, Oklahoma Agriculture
Commissioner Dennis Howard observed, "Large-scale hog operations are coming
here because we have looser environmental laws . . .we are one of the few states
where licensing is optional." (Schafer, 1997) Those in other states seem to agree
with the Commissioner's assessment of the reason for increased growth. While
Glen Grimes, professor emeritus of agriculture economics at the University of
Missouri, hesitates to pin too much of the U.S. hog production shift on
environmental rules, he admits weak environmental rules appear to be having
some impact. David Preisler, executive director of the Minnesota Pork Producers,
states, "Hog production is quickly moving to areas of the country that want it
rather than the places where it makes the most superficial economic sense. Small
increases in cost of production can be easily offset by avoiding permitting delays,
community opposition, legal expenses or hurdles, and excessive environmental
rules and workmen's compensation rates can save up to the equivalent of
30 cents/bushel on corn." (Vansickle, 1997)
Changes in the law
With increased numbers of hogs in confined feeding operations came
increased controversy. It was in this contentious climate that public debate on the
issue was ignited, and legal changes began to occur. While bills had been
introduced (and quickly killed) in prior years, the first significant change in the
manner CAFOs are licensed came in the form of an attorney general's opinion,
"Although under due process jurisprudence of both the United States Supreme
Court and Oklahoma Supreme Court, the Board of Agriculture need not conduct
a hearing prior to the issuance of every feed yard permit, the Board of Agriculture
must conduct a hearing--an individual proceeding under 75 O.S.1991 and Supp.
1995, 309-323 of the Oklahoma Administrative Procedures Act when written
comments received by landowners within the vicinity of the proposed feed yard
operation present specific factual allegations showing that the proposed feed yard
operation may have a direct, substantial and immediate effect upon their property
or legal interest (A.G. Opinion No. 96-76)."
After issuance of the opinion, the Board of Agriculture passed emergency
rules allowing adjacent landowners within one-half mile of the proposed facility a
right to a hearing if the owners presented "specific factual allegations showing
that the proposed operation made a direct, substantial and immediate effect upon
their property or legal interest." The board later passed permanent rules to address
the hearing requirements.
In May 1997, Attorney General Edmondson issued another opinion on an issue
involving CAFOs. Senator Ben Brown asked, "Do the nuisance protection
provisions of the Oklahoma Feed Yards Act at 2 O.S. Supp.1996, 9-210(c),
violate Article II, 23 of the Oklahoma Constitution?" The attorney general
stated that the nuisance provision of the Oklahoma Feed Yards Act at 2
O.S.Supp.1996, 9-210(c ) does not contravene Article II, 23 of the Oklahoma
Constitution. However, in the text of the opinion, the attorney general explained
that landowners have an independent constitutional cause of action for any
substantial injury to the use and enjoyment of private property under
Article II, 23.
Later in May, the legislature passed HB 1522. According to a Summary of
Requirements of HB 1522 prepared by David Chandler, legal counsel to the
Oklahoma Dept. of Agriculture, the new CAFO act requires licensure of animal
feeding operations using a liquid waste system if the operation has a certain
number of animals confined. For example, an industrial-size swine feeding
operation using a liquid waste system would only be required to be licensed if the
operation confined 5,000 or more swine weighing approximately 55 lb. Other
provisions cited by the department include:
-Notice to surface landowners within one mile of the proposed CAFO that a
license application is pending. Landowners may request an administrative
-The department has the authority to monitor lagoons if written complaints
are lodged with the department regarding the lagoon.
-No land application of liquid waste within 500 ft of an occupied dwelling or
300 ft of a drinking water well.
-Licensed Managed Feeding Operations (LMFO) are required to set the
operation back from occupied houses from 1/4 to 3/4 mile.
-The department has the authority to make annual inspections.
-LMFOs are required to get presite approval by the department.
-CAFOs are required to bring pollution prevention plans and design plan to
the department for preapproval.
One of the problems with HB 1522 is that it does not go into effect until
September 1, 1997. Consequently, corporate hog farms are scrambling to submit
partial applications in order to avoid complying with the new law. The
Department of Agriculture predicts as many as 200 new CAFO license
applications will be made prior to September 1 to avoid the stricter legal
requirements. Under the new CAFO act, applications must be "substantially
complete" before September 1 in order to fall under the old law. On June 30,
1997, the Board of Agriculture issued a policy statement regarding the meaning
of "substantially complete" application. Among the 20 factors used to determine
the completeness of an application is the requirement for documentation verifying
the existence of a minimum of a "four (4) foot separation between the bottom of
each lagoon and the highest annual level of groundwater elevation at lagoon site."
Even with the new law, it's still questionable as to how effective the legislation
will be in protecting the state's water resources.
The continuing debate over swine regulations
After more than five years of allowing industrial hog production to operate in
Oklahoma, there is increasing public debate about the water quality implications
and quality of life implications of allowing industrial hog facilities to operate with
little oversight by any regulatory agency. Prior to the passage of HB 1522, an
editorial published in The Sunday Oklahoman said:
"What began as an economic development tool during the Walters
Administration has become a boon for corporate hog farms and a major source of
grief for those who live nearby. The Oklahoman generally supports minimal
regulation of business and reasonable environmental rules, but now we wonder:
Is corporate hog farming in Oklahoma under-regulated?"
This is an example of even the most conservative thinkers with regard to
regulation of industry becoming concerned about under-regulation of industrial
hog production. The editorial accurately noted that many of the farms were so
remote that the obvious effects of placing thousands of swine in a small area
escaped notice by most of the public. The writer noted that critics of corporate
hog farming say the benefits go to a "privileged few" while most of the adverse
side effects accrue to nearby landowners. Daily and weekly newspapers across the
state are becoming involved in the debate through articles and letters to the editor.
Governor Keating entered the discussion with Executive Order 97-07 which
stated: "I, Frank Keating . . . because the state's current activities related to the
monitoring, remediating, and abating the water quality problems attributed to the
handling of poultry, swine and bovine water are fragmented and inefficient,
hereby establish the Governor's Animal Waste and Water Quality Protection Task
Force." "As a result, there is often duplication of effort in certain areas, little or
no effort in others, gaps and delays in education and outreach, and an overall
failure of the state to make significant progress in ensuring that the quality of the
state's water is protected. It is vital that the state have a coordinated,
comprehensive effort to protect the quality of the water in Oklahoma."
The task force is charged with examining the current and past disposal of
animal waste and its effect on the quality of Oklahoma's water supply, analyzing
and coordinating the activities of each state entity currently involved in regulating
animal waste, and developing a statewide strategy and action plan to oversee the
future use of animal waste and its effect on the quality of Oklahoma's water
The second meeting of the task force was an opportunity for citizen comment.
Task force members heard from more than 45 citizens regarding the issues
surrounding water quality and the large animal feeding operations. One rural
citizen described a swine waste water lagoon dug to the level of the water table.
Before the lagoon could be filled with water, the citizen said groundwater began
to seep up into the lagoon. Even after the corporation placed clay on the bottom
of the lagoon, seepage problems persisted. The citizen said the corporation chose
to fill the lagoon and began using it for swine waste.
On June 13, 1997, Governor Keating issued Executive Order 97-14. The order
stated in part: "I...hereby determine that the State Board of Agriculture and the
Oklahoma Water Resources Board must act expeditiously in order to preclude
activity which could result in the avoidance of water quality safeguards intended
to protect the water of our state as expressed in the Oklahoma Concentrated
Animal Feeding Operations Act (HB 1522)."
The governor ordered the two boards to cooperate in efforts to adopt such
emergency measures including, but not limited to, emergency rules to assure that
the quality of the waters of Oklahoma are not compromised until all the
provisions of the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations Act can be
implemented. As a result of the executive order, the Board of Agriculture passed
the public policy statement discussed earlier.
Debate is still raging in Oklahoma regarding the effects of industrialized hog
production. Concern is mounting about groundwater and quality of life for rural
citizens including family farmers and ranchers. Only time will tell if Oklahomans
have the political will to prevent the state from becoming a dumping ground for
those industrialized hog giants seeking a haven from strict regulation.
The Kerr Center will continue to keep its readership informed about the issues
related to industrialized swine production in Oklahoma and other public policy
issues affecting rural citizens.
-Freese and Fee. 1994. Livestock-hungry states. Successful Farming, Jan.
-Hinton, M. 1997. Lawmakers not ready to blow pig farms down.
Oklahoma City The Sunday Oklahoman, 18 May.
-Schafer, S. 1997. Poultry farms not chicken to move in to Oklahoma.
Tulsa World, 5 May.
-Vansickle, J. 1997. Market shifts create new hog powerhouse states. National
Hog Farmer, 15 May.
Microbiological activity in native soils
Maria Filimonova, Soil & Plant Analysis Laboratory Manager
(Editor's Note: Maria adapted this article from one she wrote for the
Missouri Prairie Journal.)
"Grass is the forgiveness of nature, her constant benediction. Fields trampled
with battle, saturated with blood, torn with the ruts of canon, grow green again
with grass, and carnage is forgotten. Streets abandoned by traffic become grass
grown like rural lanes, and are obliterated. Forests decay, harvests perish, flowers
vanish, but grass is immortal. Its tenacious fibers hold the earth in its place."
John James Ingalls
Most cultivated soils of the Great Plains have been tilled for 50 to 100 years.
During this time, prairie soils have undergone major changes. Degradation of
prairie soil occurs through erosion, loss of organic matter, salinization, and
acidification. Soil erosion after cultivation has two causes, wind and water. As a
result, organic matter, primarily carbon (C) and nitrogen (N), declines affecting
soil productivity. In undisturbed ecosystems, the amount of carbon entering and
leaving the soil is in balance. Cultivation can reduce soil organic matter and
organic N concentrations 25% to 60%, with corresponding decreases in
nitrification rates and quantity of organic N nitrified. The type of cropping
system also influences the rate of organic C and N loss.
Cultivation also changes the soil environment affecting the number and kinds
of soil organisms. Clearing forested or grassland areas for cultivation drastically
alters the soil environment. First, the quantity and quality of plant residues (food
for soil organisms) is significantly reduced. Second, the number of species of
higher plants is reduced. Monoculture or even common crop rotations provide a
much narrower range of plant materials than forests and grasslands. Generally,
agricultural practices such as monoculture and pesticide application also
contribute to a general reduction of species diversity and total organism
population. However, some agricultural practices positively effect soil
microbiological activity. For example, the application of organic fertilizers such
as manure or compost increases microbe activity.
The productivity and stability of soil as a medium for plant growth depends
greatly on the balance between living and nonliving components. Energy from
the sun and nutrients essential for growth are stored in crop plants and recycled
through decomposition by micro-and macroorganisms in soil. The soil organic
matter formed during this process serves as a continuous nutrient supply and a
factor stabilizing the soil's physical environment. To maintain productivity,
soluble nutrients removed from soil by plant growth must be replaced. In natural
systems, the action of soil microbes and fauna are major determinants of efficient
nutrient cycling and plant growth. Therefore, biological decomposition of plant
residue is the largest source of nutrients.
Cultivation and organic amendments influence microbial activity in soil.
A diverse population of microorganisms exists in the soil. For the major soil
microbes, the C:N ratio is 5:1 for bacteria, 6:1 for actinomycetes, and 10:1 for
fungi. For most organisms for every carbon molecule assimilated, two are "lost"
as CO2. If the average C:N ratio for the total microbe population is 8:1, then soil
with a C:N ratio of 24:1 would be ideal. At higher C:N ratios, nitrogen becomes
Jordan et al. (1995) studied microbial activity under different tillage and
fertility practices. They measured soil microbial biomass carbon, direct counts of
fungal and bacterial biomass, and soil enzymatic activity to determine microbial
activity on two sites located in the same climatic region. One area was the
uncultivated Tucker Prairie, and the other was Sanborn Field located on the
University of Missouri campus at Columbia which has been under various
cropping and management practices since 1888. Seven plots representing
different long- and short-term cropping histories were investigated at Sanborn
Field. Tucker Prairie is a virgin prairie site with native plant cover that includes
big and little bluestem, prairie dropseed, and Indiangrass. Not surprisingly, all
measured parameters on the undisturbed soil of Tucker Prairie exceeded the
cultivated sites on Sanborn Field. Differences among the Sanborn Field plots
were influenced by their cropping, fertility, and tillage history. No-till continuous
corn under full-fertility treatment exhibited higher measures of microbial activity
than conventional tillage continuous corn with or without full fertility.
Continuous corn plots that received fertilizer had higher measures of microbial
activity than nonfertilized continuous corn plots. Plots planted in timothy with or
without manure had higher microbial carbon than other plots and were similar to
levels on the Tucker Prairie site.
Prairie soils under cultivation were certainly different before being put into
production. The very act of cultivation creates a drastic change in the soil
environment causing shifts in microbial populations affecting the nutrient cycle.
A lack of understanding of the prairie as a natural ecosystem and valuable
resource when it was first put to the plow allowed for most of the prairie's
destruction. We have only recently begun to understand the intricate relationships
that formed over the eons during the development of these vast grasslands. A
better understanding of prairie soils provides us with knowledge that we can
apply towards preserving the prairie and sustaining land that was once prairie but
is now in production. Such knowledge is also vital to the sustainability of our
culture. As said last century by John James Ingalls, "grass is the forgiveness of
nature. . .immortal. Its tenacious fibers hold the earth in its place." The prairie
flower Indian paintbrush will warm our souls and lighten our spirits every spring
with its bright and cheerful flowering.
-Jordan, D., R.J. Kremer, W.A. Bergfield, K.Y. Kim, and V.N. Cacnio. 1995.
Evaluation of microbial methods as potential indicators of soil quality in
historical agricultural fields. Biol. Fertil. Soil 19:297-302.
David Redhage, Agricultural Economist
From a marketing standpoint, echinacea certainly fits into the natural products
category. While a recent article in the Natural Foods Merchandiser (July 1997,
p. 14) did not mention echinacea or any herbs directly, it did indicate that
mainstream grocery stores are more interested than ever in bringing natural foods
into their stores. A natural foods seminar was held at the Food Marketing
Institute's Annual Industry Convention & Educational Exposition in May and
attracted a standing-room-only crowd of 150. The seminar addressed issues such
as how to integrate natural foods into conventional stores and how to work with
natural products distributors. Demand for medicinal herbs could benefit greatly
from this trend. Increased demand would open up marketing opportunities for
Echinacea growers need to have a good grasp on production costs before
planting echinacea or any other medicinal herb. Recently, I came across the
following echinacea research project which tracked production costs. Interest in
growing echinacea commercially is not restricted to the United States. An
eight-year study was conducted in Finland between 1984 and 1992 with the goal
of replacing imported Echinacea purpurea raw material with domestic production
Galambosi, 1993). Echinacea was cultivated as a biannual using ridges or black
plastic mulch. Seedlings were grown indoors in 64-count (5 x 5 x 5 cm) and
144-count (3.2 x 3.2 x 4 cm) trays for 5-6 weeks before being transplanted to the
field. Planting density, depending on treatment, was 6-8 plants/m2
(approximately 1 plant/1.35 sq. ft). Due to the lack of specialized machinery in
Finland, most cultivation was done by hand. Weed control was maintained with
black plastic mulch and a lawn mower used between rows. Soil preparation,
mulch spreading, and lawn mowing were mechanized. Total fresh plant
weight at the end of year two was 24 oz for those started in 64-count trays and
10 oz for those started in 144-count trays. Percentage production costs tracked
during the study were materials--9%, field preparation and seedling
production--7%, weeding--28%, and hand harvesting--56%. Marketing costs
were not part of the study. While the study does not give exact costs for each
stage of production, it does indicate that a majority of the production costs are
concentrated in weeding and harvesting. For the grower, establishment costs are
only a small part of the overall cost of echinacea production. Mechanizing the
harvesting stage could reduce labor costs, but by how much is uncertain based
on the information provided in the study.
-Galambosi, B. 1993. Introduction of Echinacea purpurea and Leuza
charthamoides into cultivation in Finland. Acta Horticulturae 331.