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Farmers may be more “organic” than people realize | 4 February 6, 2012 Vol. 91
‘Reporting Requirement’ Proposed EPA reg threatens food security | 6
‘Recreational Value’ Recreation offers income opportunities | 8
No. 2 fbnews.org
AFBF, plaintiffs file for judgment in Chesapeake Bay watershed case The Environmental Protection Agency’s Total Maximum Daily Load regulatory action (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay watershed establishes new controls on land use that trespass into territory Congress legally reserved for state governments, according to the opening brief for summary judgment, filed Jan. 27 by the American Farm Bureau Federation in the case, AFBF v. EPA. The TMDL will affect all eco-
nomic activity in the watershed with potentially devastating impacts for the region’s agriculture, according to AFBF. “We all want a clean and healthy Chesapeake Bay,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “This lawsuit is about how we reach that common goal. Farm Bureau believes EPA’s new regulation is unlawful and costly without providing the environmental benefit promised. Farm-
ers in the watershed have clearly delivered a documented track record of continuous improvement, through conservation and sound stewardship and will continue their dedicated efforts.” The TMDL dictates how much nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment can be allowed into the bay and its tributaries from different areas and sources. According to Bay Continued on Page 8
Child labor proposal needs further revision Agriculture and the State of the Union President Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union address included comments on several issues that are important to farmers and ranchers, including immigration, trade, energy and rural development.
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MISSOURI FARMER CHRIS CHINN grew up helping out on her grandparents’ farm. She would like her children to be able to have the same experience, but proposed Labor Department rules would prevent that, she told House lawmakers. Young people and the contributions they make as members of farm and ranch families are vital to American agriculture, according to Missouri hog farmer Chris Chinn. Testifying on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation, she told the House Small Business Committee’s Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade that proposed changes to Labor Department regulations on child labor would have negative impacts on rural America. Chinn, who owns and operates a family farm with her husband, said the DOL rules could significantly limit the jobs their children (aged 14 and 10) could do on their own farm, and especially their grandparents’ farm. “A farmer’s first-hand reaction to these proposed regulations is how negatively they will affect
farm families,” said Chinn, a member of the Missouri Farm Bureau’s board of directors. “They strip away the ability of youth to work in agriculture, and the desire and goal of parents to pass on to our children the traditions and values we hold.” Responding to the DOL announcement of Feb. 1 to re-propose the “parental exemption” of the rule, which prohibits youth from doing various farm activities on farms at which they don’t reside, Chinn said that while the move was appreciated, “it is clear to all of us in the agricultural community that merely ‘tweaking’ the rule will not fix something that we believe is fundamentally flawed.” For example, Chinn explained that even traditional, routine farm chores, such as driving trac-
tors, milking cows, cutting weeds and building or repairing fences would likely be considered illegal unless the farm on which the youth worked was wholly owned by his or her parents. Further, said Chinn, who grew up doing many traditional farm chores on her grandparent’s farm, “For DOL to suggest—as it does in its proposed regulations—that my grandparents were violating the law almost takes my breath away. But based on the proposal DOL intends to make final, it is saying that our family farm was violating federal law.” Chinn said it really comes down to DOL’s lack of understanding regarding the societal structure of the farming community, how farms are organized and “how Child labor Continued on Page 3
February 6, 2012
Farmers are becoming food celebrities By Stewart Truelsen According to Phil Lempert, best known as the Supermarket Guru, “Farmers are becoming the latest food celebrities.” He goes so far as to predict that celebrity chefs are out, celebrity farmers are in. Lempert is an astute food industry observer, journalist and trend watcher. He created a virtual grocery store and consumer information center, Phil’s Supermarket, on Second Life, a rapidly growing online world. If you have time for a second life, you might want to check it out. Or, check out his website: supermarketguru.com. The notion that farmers are becoming celebrities is one of Lempert’s Top 10 Food Trends for 2012. He may have gone a bit too far with this one. Most farmers don’t have time to be celebrities, but they do recognize the value in opening lines of communication with consumers.
Lempert believes the “farm to fork” journey has become increasingly important. Shoppers want to know where their food comes from. “We’ve seen ‘buy local’ become one of the most important supermarket offerings; now we get to meet the people who are the producers, farmers and ranchers,” he said in describing the trend. The American Farm Bureau Federation has facilitated this trend with an emphasis on social media. AFBF’s FBLog has opinions and perspectives from the nation’s top producers. Want to know what cold-climate farmers do all winter? It can be found there at www.fb.org/blog. Farm Bureau also reaches out to consumers with Foodie News, an electronic newsletter that appeals to those most passionate about food and food trends. Individual farms and ranches are represented on Facebook and Twitter and are eager to have friends and followers. For many years farmers have wanted to tell their story to con-
sumers, but it was always hard to reach an urban audience. Print and broadcast media just didn’t get the job done. The only time consumers paid much attention was when food prices were rising or a drought, freeze or some other calamity affected farmers. The growing consumer interest in the “farm to fork” journey and how it is promoted through social media and the Internet is a huge breakthrough for the farming and ranching community, and the trend is only just beginning. Lempert isn’t the only one noticing the higher profile or celebrity status of farmers and ranchers. One of The Food Channel’s top trends for 2012 is the rise of the agri-chef, a new breed of chefs who like to grow their own food. TFC expects this trend to evolve from gardens to fullfledged farms. One thing we know for sure is that growers have reached out to renowned chefs, and they are almost as likely to be on the agenda for a major farm
convention as an economist. It’s no secret that people like to visit farmers and ranchers and see firsthand how their food is grown, but it is impossible in today’s world for everyone to do that. Social media connections help make the “farm to fork” journey possible for more people.
Stewart Truelsen is a regular contributor to Farm Bureau’s Focus on Agriculture series of articles and the author of the book “Forward Farm Bureau.”
IFYE exchange program opens gateway to the world This is the first in a series of articles about the International Four-H Youth Exchange program. In the spring of 1948, soon after World War II ended, a group of youth attending the National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C., gathered to talk about what they could do to help prevent future world wars. The idea of a farmto-farm, cultural exchange became the group’s focal point, and they formed the International Four-H Youth Exchange (IFYE) program. The goal was to send young adult farm students from the United States to live and work with farm families in other parts of the world and become a part of those host families. These young people would become farm-to-
Kayla Gray, an International Four-H Youth Exchange program participant from Colorado, tends to a flock of 21,000 young turkeys in addition to her egg collecting responsibilities.
Don Lipton, Executive Director, Public Relations Lynne Finnerty, Editor Erin Anthony, Assistant Editor Phyllis Brown, Assistant Editor Sarah Bittner, Contributing Writer
farm ambassadors, with the youth from other countries becoming part of farm families in the United States. Delegates lived at least six months in their host country so that the youth could become totally immersed in another culture, become a member of the local community and learn the language and customs of the other country. It was hoped that these family ties would make it difficult for any participant to ever want to go to war with their host family or country. The IFYE motto became “Peace through Understanding.” Many things have changed over the past 64 years in the IFYE program, but many things have stayed the same. Delegates apply for the program, are still selected and trained on everything from what to expect in their host country to how to adapt and communicate with their adopted families in another culture. An important part of the program then and now is reporting to friends, family and organizations back home about the adventures and everyday happenings in their host community. The mechanics of reporting back have changed from typewriters to blogs and from slide shows to Powerpoint presentations, but the purpose is the same. IFYEs share stories of adventures that change their outlook on life and expand the perspectives of friends and family at home. This past summer and fall, 16 inbound delegates came from abroad and nine U.S. delegates traveled to Europe, South America and Australia. These IFYEs returned with a deeper
February 6, 2012 Vol. 91
Published semimonthly, except monthly in August and December, by the American Farm B ureau Federation, 600 Maryland Ave., SW, Suite 1000W, Washington, DC 20024. Phone: 202-406-3600. E-mail: email@example.com. Web site: http://www.fb.org. Periodical postage paid at Washington, D.C., and additional mailing offices. Subscription rate for officers and board members of county and state Farm Bureaus—$6, which is deducted from dues. For other subscribers—$10. Postmaster: Send address changes to FBNews, 600 Maryland Ave., SW, Suite 1000W, Washington, DC 20024.
understanding of the global agricultural issues that are facing American agriculture. Upon returning to the United States, the IFYE delegates were asked to report back to their home counties and states. Kayla Gray traveled as one of those IFYEs from Colorado to Scotland and Greece. “One of my experiences was on a poultry farm and consisted of helping gather more than 18,000 eggs each day followed by the cleaning and packaging of them all,” she reported. “One day I asked someone, in the broken Greek that I knew, for how much a halfdozen of our eggs were expected to be sold. Expecting to get an answer of around 1 to 2 euros, I was shocked to hear that in the supermarket half a dozen eggs were to be sold for as much as 5 euros! “Unfortunately, with the current state of the Greek economy, the prices of all goods have skyrocketed and the pay for many workers has been frozen.” Kayla’s first-hand experience with Greece’s economic crisis put into perspective the challenge that common Greek people face in trying to feed their families. She also gained a unique perspective on issues of global food policy and the economics of the worldwide farming industry. If you or someone you know is interested in IFYE and would like more information, please contact Alan Lambert, president of the IFYE Alumni Association of the USA, at alane firstname.lastname@example.org.
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February 6, 2012
FB: Downed animal bill rejects veterinarians’ expertise Farmers and ranchers are urging congressional lawmakers to oppose a bill that would restrict the professional judgment of veterinarians and USDA personnel. The Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act (H.R. 3704) would ban the processing of all nonambulatory animals regardless of species, reason or health, including those fatigued, tired or simply resting in a recumbent position. “H.R. 3704 would compromise the professional judgment of veterinarians and USDA personnel who conduct pre- and post-mortem inspections, while also causing significant negative economic consequences for producers and processors,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman wrote in a Jan. 24 letter to House members. “Experienced livestock professionals know that animals sometimes become tired or fatigued, especially after transport, and may take several minutes to rest and recover.”
Under this bill, these tired animals would be defined as non-ambulatory without any consideration of possible causes or circumstances, forcing them to be removed from a USDAregulated facility and needlessly destroyed. Most impacted by the proposed legislation are a small percentage of pigs that arrive at processing facilities in a fatigued condition. In those cases, veterinarians usually give the animals a few hours to see if they just needed rest and are fit for slaughter, or if they are sick and should not be slaughtered for meat. The measure would have no positive impact on food safety, Stallman wrote in the letter. Instead it creates additional regulatory burdens for the livestock industry, basing decisions on emotion rather than veterinary or animal science. “The best consumer protection lawmakers can provide is to continue to rely on the expertise of food safety regulators and their close
work with the industry to ensure that all livestock are subject to pre- and post-mortem inspection to determine fitness for the food supply,” Stallman said. After the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month rejected a California law mandating that all downed livestock be euthanized, HSUS said it would try harder to get the national Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act passed. The court ruled the California law is preempted by the Federal Meat Inspection Act, which allows a federal meat inspector to decide whether a non-ambulatory animal is fit to be slaughtered for meat. The case addressed pigs specifically, but the California law and the ruling apply to cows, sheep and goats. The Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act has 14 co-sponsors and has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry.
Continued from page 1 farm families help one another.” She said there was clearly a lack of appreciation and grasp in the proposed regulations of “what it is like to live in rural America.” DOL last year proposed making farm work off-limits to minors unless the work is done on a farm owned by the youth’s own parents. Farm Bureau and others pointed out that many farms these days, especially multi-generation family farms, are partnerships. If interpreted literally, the regulations would prevent even those kids who are growing up on the farm from helping out and learning skills they would need to take over the family farm someday. After an outcry from farm country, DOL announced it would broaden the exemption for children whose parents are part-owners in a farm.
AFBF President Bob Stallman said the decision was “a positive step,” but more work was needed to address farmers’ concerns about the proposal. For example, he said, the prohibition on using any power-driven equipment goes too far. “Farm and ranch families are more interested than anyone else in assuring the safety of farming operations,” said Stallman. “We have no desire at all to have young teenagers working in jobs that are inappropriate or entail too much risk. But, laws and regulations need to be sensible and within reason—not prohibiting teenagers from performing simple everyday farm functions like operating a battery-powered screwdriver.” Stallman thanked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for working to address farmers’ concerns about the proposal.
Child labor proposal needs further revision
Most farmers learn how to operate equipment and farm properly by doing tasks as young people on the farm, but a government plan to limit farm work by minors could end that, according to Farm Bureau. The Labor Department has broadened an exemption for farm parents, but Farm Bureau says the proposal needs further changes.
Continued from page 1 “We appreciate President Obama’s stated commitment to comprehensive immigration reform,” said Mark Maslyn, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s director of public policy. “Reforming U.S. immigration law remains essential to agriculture and a priority for Farm Bureau.” “The opponents of action are out of excuses,” the president said in his speech to Congress and the public. “We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now.” The statement generated applause from the chamber. Maslyn said AFBF would work to see that immigration reform remains a high-profile issue beyond the one night of the State of the Union speech. AFBF supports a comprehensive approach to reforming immigration policy, including an effective guest worker program for farm employers. Maslyn also noted that Farm Bureau’s farm bill proposal is compatible with President Obama’s statement regarding the need to focus on fiscal responsibility. Farm Bureau delegates, at the annual meeting in January, approved AFBF
Credit: Official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy
Agriculture and the State of the Union address
farm policy that provides farmers a safety net and helps them deal with the risks of farming but is also flexible enough to work within the nation’s current funding constraints. “We also noted that President Obama said he believes the federal government does not feel the need to micro-manage farm-level activities,” Maslyn said. “We encourage the administration to embrace that spirit across the board when it comes to a wide range of
burdensome regulations currently impacting farm and ranch activities.” The president also vowed he would “go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products,” a commitment that Maslyn commended. Exports represent about a third of U.S. agricultural cash receipts, Maslyn said, and farmers are setting new export records every year. “We want to see those
advances continue,” he added. The president said that American-made energy represents the promise of innovation and urged Congress to “double-down” on clean energy development and pass clean energy tax credits. Maslyn said the president’s remarks about renewable energy could not have come at a more important time. “We’ve seen in just a few years the political sentiment on the Hill has changed quite dramatically,” he explained, “and we feel that they’re somewhat under attack right now. So those words and the importance that his administration puts on those issues were reassuring. It would have been nice if he had specifically mentioned ethanol and biodiesel, but I think the message was clear.” The president also mentioned the need for better Internet connectivity in rural areas. “ We’ve got…an incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world,” said Obama. He called for Congress to direct resources to rebuilding America’s infrastructure.
Farmers blur the line between organic and conventional Jay Yankey uses composted manure to fertilize his pumpkins and strawberries, which he sells at his you-pick farm in Prince William County, Va., and through community-supported agriculture contracts in which community members buy shares of the farm’s produce for the season. He uses beneficial insects to control pests, and cover crops to prevent erosion and add nitrogen to his soil. Organic farmers commonly rely on such methods in lieu of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, which are not allowed under USDA’s national organic standards and labeling program. Yankey’s farm, however, is not certified organic. “I just feel it (organic certification) would restrict me in what I can and can’t do,” he explained. “There are a lot of factors that play into why you would use certain practices. Farmers use the ones that work for them.” The national organic certification program began in 2002, requiring farms with more than $5,000 in annual sales to become USDA-certified in order to label their products as organic. Now, a decade on, the amount of organic farmland in the U.S. has more than doubled to 4.8 million acres and the number of organic farms has grown to 13,000. While that’s still a tiny percentage of U.S. agriculture, the organic sector has seen phenomenal growth driven by consumer demand and premium prices. Still more farmers, a total of 20,437, reported in the most recent Census of Agriculture in 2007 that their products meet federal organic standards, but not all of them are certified organic. And then there
Kentucky farmer Scott Travis rotates his crops as an organic way to control pests, a practice that is common in American agriculture. “The soil will last a long time if you take care of it,” Travis says. “Doing a lot of these practices that are partially organic, or more organic than people think, are part of that.” are farmers like Yankey, who fall somewhere along a spectrum between organic and conventional. “Many conventional farmers use some of the biological and cultural practices that organic farmers rely on for pest and nutrient management, just not to the same degree,” says Catherine Greene, a senior economist with USDA’s Economic Research Service. USDA data shows, for example, that while organic soybean growers rely more heavily than conventional farmers on the use of beneficial insects to control pests and mulch and ground covers to keep weeds down, those practices are commonly used by conventional soybean farmers. Greene says some of the most widely adopted organic methods are crop rotation, natural fertilizer, green manure, biological pest management and conservation tillage. Farmers like Yankey, who also grows soybeans and wheat, are
Source: USDA, ERS
Fruits and vegetables account for a larger percentage of organic acreage than do row crops. However, many row crop farmers take some of the same approaches as organic farmers to building soil fertility and controlling pests.
adopting the “organic” practices that work for them and rejecting the ones that don’t. “As we continue to progress, I think that line between conventional and organic is going to continue to become more blurred,” Yankey says. “More organic practices are becoming accepted as the norm.” Al Carl, a conventional grower of apples and other fruits in western Massachusetts, uses sulfur, a natural soil amendment, to control apple scab. Organic apple producers use such “biological pesticides” and other inputs for pest management, according to Greene. For farmers like Carl, focusing on buying local is more important than an organic label. He sells his apples directly to consumers in Amherst, a college town with an affluent population willing to pay the higher prices for organic produce. Still, he says, if the fruit doesn’t look nice, “no one will want to know us.” He feels he has to use some synthetic pesticides to control diseases like sooty blotch, which causes only surface blotches on apples but makes the fruit essentially unmarketable in the fresh market. Going all-organic can be costly because of the challenge of controlling weeds and pests without pesticides and the higher cost of organic feed for livestock. As farmers like Yankey strive to shrink their environmental footprint, they are focusing on where they can practically and profitably make incremental improvements. Yankey says there are more ways to protect the environment than being organic. For example, something Yankey says he could not do as a certified organic farm is no-till, a method of planting a crop amid the residue of the previous crop, without
tilling the soil before planting. No-till farming helps retain soil moisture and nutrients and curb erosion, but it also involves the use of herbicides for weed control. “While we’re constantly researching other opportunities like cover crops and things, we still have to use a small amount of herbicide. For our operation, I feel that’s more environmentally friendly than having to cultivate the soil and causing erosion. It’s better to leave that biomass on the field,” Yankey explained. Of course, the organic label is an easy way for consumers who want to avoid foods grown with chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizer and genetic engineering to do so without digging into each farmer’s specific production practices. Yankey says customers often ask if his products are organic. “I encourage consumers to ask those questions,” says Yankey. “Most are comfortable when we explain the things that we are doing. What consumers should be asking is, ‘How does what you do affect me as the direct consumer.’” Scott Travis grows conventional corn, wheat, tobacco, pumpkins and soybeans in Cox’s Creek, Ky., just south of Louisville. He also uses no-till production for his row crops, which in addition to building soil fertility and reducing erosion also helps his seed get off to a good start because of increased soil moisture. He adjusts planting and harvesting dates, working with Mother Nature to use sunlight as a natural fertilizer that helps set the bean pods. He plans carefully to have the ground covered with soybean plants by around June 20, which he says is the brightest time of the year. Travis also rotates his soybean and corn crops, with 60 percent of the rows planted in soybeans. “Crop rotation is really an organic way to control pests in the soil,” Travis says. “What attacks the corn won’t attack the beans and vice versa. It improves yields quite a bit.” He says a farmer just beginning to do crop rotation will have a drop in yields the first year, but after that yields get better as soil conditions improve. “The soil will last a long time if you take care of it,” Travis said. “Doing a lot of these practices that are partially organic, or more organic than people think, are part of that. Farmers are doing way better than they used to.”
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February 6, 2012
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Rockey Farms improves soil health with ‘green manure’ crops If you’ve eaten potatoes recently, there’s a good chance they came from southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley, the major potato production area in Colorado. Unlike most of the region’s potato farmers, who raise russet potatoes, Brendon Rockey and his brother Sheldon raise what’s called specialty potatoes—reds, purples, fingerlings, some 30 varieties in all. They’ve raised as many as 200 varieties through the years. Brendon says Rockey Farms was the first in the country to grow fingerling potatoes. “We’ve never been afraid to try something different,” Brendon said. “We felt like if everybody in the valley is growing russet potatoes, as a smaller grower we need to do something different.” Specialty potatoes sell at higher prices than russets, and Brendon says the market for the colorful, flavorful tubers is exploding. That has enabled Rockey Farms to take chances that other farms might not. The farm used to raise malting barley in rotation with potatoes. About five years ago, the farm switched out the barley for green manure crops, which add nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Brendon began with Sudan grass and now uses a mix of species including peas, vetch, oats, tiller
radish, purple top turnips and buckwheat. “When we chose our mix we wanted one of each of the four categories of green manure plants: cool-season grass, cool-season broadleaf, warm-season grass and warm-season broadleaf. Everything in the mix serves a purpose, and by mixing them together we are able to accomplish more than we could with any one species alone,” Brendon explained. He also uses compost, fish, kelp and other biological amendments to improve the soil, eliminating the need for commercial fertilizers. Last year, he started companion-cropping— planting peas right alongside the potatoes, which he says is showing benefits from diversifying the root system. The trials have been so successful that the farm is having a special planter built that can plant both crops. “We’re not looking to harvest the peas,” he stressed. “The pea blossoms just attract beneficial insects and the plants add nitrogen to the soil.” Looking back, Brendon says going to green manure is one of the best things he and his brother have done on the farm. Their cost of production is down so much that they haven’t even missed the income from the barley rotation. Brendon says the better soil health on his
farm gives him better control over pests that are problems for conventional farmers, even with their use of chemicals. Rockey Farms isn’t certified organic, but most people in the valley assume it is. Brendon says the one thing that keeps them from being certified is their use of sulfuric acid as a defoliant. “We feel like we’re a hybrid of the two (organic and conventional),” Brendon said. “I like to tell people we’re progressively moving backward. We’re using a lot of the organic philosophies, but without the limitations on our operation. We feel like we have an advantage over both the regular conventional and organic guys.” Brendon says that when Rockey Farms started the green manure rotation, “we were kind of the laughing-stock of the valley.” Now, other farmers are coming to them for help transitioning to green manure crops, and Brendon gets invitations to speak about what Rockey Farms is doing. “I’m seeing a huge shift,” Brendon says, “where you see a lot of guys focusing on soil health but not necessarily interested in being certified organic.” Follow updates and information from Rockey Farms by going to Facebook and searching for Rockey Farms LLC and clicking “Like.”
While Colorado potato grower Brendon Rockey is proud of his fingerling potatoes, he may be even prouder of his soil. “My grandfather said you have to take care of the soil before the soil can take care of you,” he says.
Rockey Farms of Center, Colo., was the first in the country to grow fingerling potatoes. Today the farm raises 30 varieties of specialty potatoes.
The farm plants a “green manure” crop of grasses and peas in rotation with potatoes. The addition of kelp and other biological amendments also helps to build up nutrients in the soil.
February 6, 2012
A proposed EPA reporting rule that would require all concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to identify themselves and submit information to EPA not only exceeds the agency’s authority under the Clean Water Act, it creates “intense security, safety and privacy concerns” for farmers and ranchers, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. According to the terms of a settlement agreement with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Waterkeeper Alliance and the Sierra Club, EPA is proposing to amend its regulations to add an on-going reporting requirement for all CAFOs. The rule would require farmers to submit to EPA detailed data about their animal operations, including contact information and locations, the number and types of animals, the number of acres where manure could be applied and whether the operation has an NPDES permit. Failure to comply will potentially subject farmers and ranchers to Clean Water Act penalties of up to $37,500 a day. EPA’s proposed regulation offers two options: collect information from all CAFOs or limit the reporting requirements to certain watersheds. In comments submitted recently to EPA, Farm Bureau and dozens of other agriculture organizations explained why they oppose both options. First, EPA’s own records show
Farm Bureau: EPA proposal threatens food security
that many livestock and poultry farms are located or designed in a manner that makes it impossible for them to discharge. Under the Clean Water Act, those CAFOs are not “point sources” that could be subject to a reporting rule or any of the associated penalties for failure to report, the groups said in their comments. They pointed to court cases such as Waterkeeper Alliance v. EPA and the more recent National Pork Producers Council v. EPA where federal courts sharply limited EPA’s ability to regulate CAFOs to actual discharges. The comments also raised concerns that the proposed reporting rule is not reasonable and is completely unrelated to whether a particular CAFO is discharging. Moreover, state permitting authorities, or even EPA in several states, al-
ready have this information; therefore it is unreasonable to subject farmers to the reporting burden and potential penalties for failure to report the very same information. Another concern raised in the comments is that both reporting options require EPA to put the data on a public website and would make too much information about farmers’ and ranchers’ operations available to the public. Since EPA cannot guarantee the confidentiality of the information, “This greatly raises the risk that these farm and ranch families will experience malicious acts of violence and intimidation by activists,” the groups said in their comments. They described a number of events during which activists targeted farms and ranches, including one that occurred just this
past December when an activist group claimed responsibility for the firebombing of 14 cattle trucks. Next, the national registry the proposal would establish creates unacceptable biosecurity risks that are inconsistent with federal policy to protect the nation’s food supply from such threats. “Examples of these include citizen activists who choose to come on to a farm to protest in the name of animal rights—without the intent to destroy property—as well as investigative and other news reporters who routinely seek out the location of livestock operations to bring film and media crews inside barns.” Finally, the reporting requirements would put the animals’ health in danger. When people go onto farms unauthorized, even without malicious intent, “and fail to follow their animal health protocols, the risk of disease and death for their animals increases exponentially,” Farm Bureau and the other organizations explained. The risk is especially great when unauthorized visitors travel from one farm or ranch to another. The groups said a third approach considered by EPA—to use information already available—would be acceptable, as long as the agency did not compile the data into a central registry. EPA said it plans on making the rule final by July.
Agency consolidation plan jeopardizes trade outlook Farmers and ranchers are concerned a White House plan to shrink the government could end up downsizing U.S. trade efforts. Last month, President Barack Obama asked Congress to grant him “fast-track” authority to reorganize and consolidate the trade functions of a number of government agencies. Obama’s proposal would consolidate under one entity the work of five agencies—the Small Business Administration, the United States Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Trade and Development Agency—as well as the business and trade functions of the Commerce Department. Under fast-track authority, Congress is limited to an up-or-down vote within 90 days of the president submitting his proposal. No amendments would be allowed. Growers want a leaner government, but they’re worried about the proposed changes to USTR, said Dave Salmonsen, American Farm Bureau Federation trade specialist. “We are concerned that taking USTR out of the White House and putting it inside a large government agency will dilute its effectiveness,” Salmonsen explained. “A move like that could minimize USTR’s presence and hurt its ability to act as the sharp end of the spear for U.S. trade policy.” USTR resides within the execu-
tive office of the president. USTR staff members are trade negotiators representing all U.S. industries. Relatively small in number—there are fewer than 300 staffers—they are big on expertise. “Within USTR there are people who work exclusively on agriculture,” said Salmonsen. “They go head-to-head with trade negotiators from other countries on behalf of U.S. farmers and ranchers.” Ultimately, USTR officials are working to boost the whole U.S. economy, not just agriculture. “When you consider that every $1 billion in trade supports about 8,000 jobs in this country, you can’t emphasize enough the importance of trade—especially agricultural trade, which was valued at $137 billion last year and is expected to at least match that this year,” Salmonsen said. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) cited the impact on the nation’s economy as one of their biggest concerns about the president’s consolidation plan. “Creating jobs must remain our number one priority, and a smart, aggressive trade policy that promotes our world-class agricultural and manufactured goods and services is critical to accomplishing that goal,” Baucus and Camp said in a joint statement.
The lawmakers, whose committees have jurisdiction over trade in their respective chambers, described USTR as “nimble, lean and effective.” They warned that putting the agency into “just another corner of a new bureaucratic behemoth would hurt American exports and hinder American job creation.” Farmers and ranchers are not
opposed to making the government more efficient, Salmonsen emphasized. “There are parts of the president’s trade agency proposal that deserve to be looked at,” he said. “There probably are some changes that could be made. We’re focusing on USTR, which we think works well just the way it is.”
News Briefs AFBF: ACE Act rights funding wrong The All Children Are Equal (ACE) Act (H.R. 2485) corrects a major flaw related to number weighting for disadvantaged students and should be passed, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman wrote in a letter to the House Education and Workforce Committee. Currently, a weighted formula is used to allocate Title 1 funds for the education of disadvantaged students under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The formula discriminates against rural, small town school districts with a high concentration of poverty. “The ACE Act corrects the number weighting problem by gradually reducing the weighting factors used in the number weighting system,” Stallman explained.
USDA announces CRP general sign-up Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse announced that USDA will conduct a four-week Conservation Reserve Program general sign-up, beginning March 12 and ending April 6. “As always, we expect strong competition to enroll acres into CRP, and we urge interested producers to maximize their environmental benefits and to make cost-effective offers,” Scuse said. Producers enrolled in the voluntary program plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion and develop wildlife habitat. In return, USDA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Contract duration is between 10 years and 15 years.
February 6, 2012
State FB Links
California Bountiful brings farm, ranch, natural resources community to urban living rooms In early December, the California Farm Bureau Federation launched the California Bountiful magazine and television program, as well as a new foundation dedicated to helping Californians better understand what their multi-faceted family farmers and ranchers provide. The California Bountiful Foundation was established to raise funds through a charitable organization for defining and sharing with the public the economic benefit of the state’s farm, ranch and natural resources community. “The purpose of this new endeavor is to promote research and to educate as well as reach out to the general public in order to provide a better understanding of the many benefits our rural landscapes and natural resources industries provide to all our state’s residents,” said Paul Wenger, California Farm Bureau Federation president. Californians have much to lose
if the understanding between urban and rural is not strengthened. “If we fail to promote the research, education and outreach beyond those who are responsible for producing it, the bounty that has contributed to the economic foundation of our state could be lost forever,” Wenger cautioned. Launched in tandem with the foundation were the California Bountiful bimonthly magazine and weekly TV program—freshly updated versions of what was formerly known as California Country. The California Bountiful magazine and television show were created to introduce Californians to farming, ranching and food production. Wenger said the new title reflects the diversity of farming in the state, and the fact that all Californians gain from a vibrant, sustainable agriculture. “The majority of residents of Cal-
ifornia have become far removed from that which has made California the Golden State—our natural resources,” Wenger said. “Our ability to provide a diversity of fresh food products as well as horticultural and timber products has allowed the consumers within our state to enjoy a standard of living that many now take for granted.” Wenger said California Bountiful will continue the same tradition of excellence that California Country had, as the organization reaches a wider audience with stories about food and farm products created on California farms and ranches. Under its new name, the California Bountiful television program will reach more viewers thanks to a grant that supports the show’s goal of connecting urban and rural California. New this year, the 30-minute program is airing on stations in Los Ange-
les and San Francisco, expanding a network that includes affiliates across the state as well as the nationwide RFD-TV network. California Bountiful magazine, which kicked off with a December/January issue, includes new features such as a page of brief items about California-grown foods and farm products called “A la Carte”; an “On Location” page that focuses on one part of California and what makes it distinctive; and a personality profile called “It’s a Bountiful Life.” The magazine is available to Farm Bureau associate members and to people who make a taxdeductible contribution to the California Bountiful Foundation. The California Bountiful television program and magazine website is CaliforniaBountiful.com. The California Bountiful Foundation website is CaliforniaBountiful.org.
Grimes leads AFBF’s accounting team
Minnesota FB voicing support of Roundup Ready sugar beets
New York Farm Bureau donated record amount of food
The Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in support of the full availability of Roundup Ready sugar beets. The comments were submitted as part of a public comment period for APHIS’ published draft environmental impact statement regarding Roundup Ready sugar beets. “Minnesota is the largest sugar beetproducing state in the country,” said Kevin Paap, MFBF president. “The sugar industry plays a significant role in our state’s economy and is critically important to the surrounding communities in which sugar beets are grown.” Additionally, Paap told APHIS that Farm Bureau supports the continued advancement in the use of biotechnology that has been scientifically proven safe and effective, and that farmers need access to tools like biotechnology to assist in protecting the environment, increasing yields and ensuring the availability of safe products. Paap urged APHIS to take the necessary actions to ensure there is full availability of Roundup Ready sugar beets.
New York Farm Bureau members delivered a record amount of food to people in need during the recent holiday season. Farmers across the state donated a total of more than 5.6 million pounds of food during 2011. Dean Norton, NYFB president, said that it was important to continue the tradition of Farm Bureau supporting the state’s food banks. “Considering the fact that our economy continues to struggle and in spite of the fact that many of our members faced hardships themselves this year due to Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, I am very proud of the generosity of our farmer members and their strong support of this program.” Food was collected through the Harvest for All donation program, a nationwide annual farm donation partnership between Farm Bureau and Feeding America in each state. Natasha Thompson, president and CEO of the Food Bank in the Southern Tier, said, “Our partnership with the Farm Bureau is more important than ever with food insecurity at an all-time high. Each week, over 11,000 individuals visit a hungerrelief agency served by the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.”
Cynthia Grimes joined the American Farm Bureau Federation in late 2011 as director of accounting. She is responsible for the daily management of the accounting functions for AFBF and affiliates. Grimes, a graduate of Phillips Business College in Lynchburg, Va., brings more than two decades of accounting experience to AFBF. Prior to joining AFBF, Grimes served as controller for 16 years for Country Casual, a direct marketer of teak furniture. She was also controller for Century 21 Franchising Corporation of New York, specifically the regional office for New York State (except for New York City), western Pennsylvania and all of West Virginia. A Rochester, N.Y., native, Grimes spent much of her youth in Charlottesville, Va. She has two grown children, one daughter and one son. Grimes lives in Germantown, Md.
Newsmakers Jay Snook Jr., Texas Farm Bureau’s District 9 state director, passed away after an accident on his family ranch on Sept. 10, 2011. Snook served as secretarytreasurer, vice president and president of Polk County Farm Bureau over the past 39 years. William Peters, former California Farm Bureau Federation director, died Sept. 29, 2011 at age 89, following a long illness. Larry Gearhardt has received the Excellence in Agricultural Law Award from the American Agricultural Law Association. Gearhardt has worked for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation as a lobbyist, analyst and attorney for nearly 20 years. The award recognizes AALA members for outstanding contributions to the legal profession and the agricultural community. Two members of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation staff have been promoted. Cara Lawson has been promoted to director of community engagement. Lawson joined OFBF in 2006 as a promotion specialist. Dan Toland has been promoted to director of digital strategy. Toland joined OFBF in 2007 as a communications specialist, writing for the organization’s Our Ohio magazine and Buckeye Farm News newspaper. Clay Francis was appointed vice president of membership and field services for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. Francis previously worked for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co.
February 6, 2012
By maximizing the recreational value of their land, farmers and ranchers could reap an additional $20,000 per year without sowing a single seed, according to Dr. Daryl Jones of the Natural Resources Enterprises Program at Mississippi State University. Jones spoke at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 93rd Annual Meeting in Honolulu in January. A recent study in Mississippi showed recreational potential increased land value by $654 per acre, or 52 percent. That’s on top of the agricultural and timber value of the land, and it’s not unique to Mississippi. Allowing the public onto private land to hunt, fish, bird watch and ride horses can be a boon for the environment too, since farmers and ranchers are providing a home to a thriving wildlife population. Jones also pointed out that the state gets a bump by the landowners’ increased incomes and from all the recreational tourists, including international guests, who are drawn to the region. “It takes a lot of money to get an auto company to open a plant in rural America, but what comes from these enterprises is a ‘realtime’ impact,” he explained. People from around the world
Recreation offers income opportunities for farmers
travel to rural areas in the U.S. to hunt, fish and stay in bed and breakfasts, but urbanites from the cities that border rural areas are a ready-made client base. As are those who grew up on farms and ranches and want their city-raised children to get a taste of rural life. Jones encouraged farmers and ranchers to start small and diversify over time, making sure they work with their land. Mississippi landowner Wade Henson started off with a few hunts and now his Cypress Lodge Outfitters offers white-tailed deer, turkey, duck, quail and dove
hunts, as well as space for church and family gatherings. Jones emphasized that a landowner will get out what he puts into his recreational enterprise. Offering hunting services like planting food plots, lodging and providing guide opportunities will boost revenues. And while landowners should get quite specific in their business plan, he urged them to look at the big picture and consider what recreational tourists really want— entertainment. “People want to be entertained on your farm,” he said. “They
want to see your place. They want to talk to you.” They are also interested in a cultural experience. Mississippians “invented rock n’ roll,” Jones said. “We invented country. That is culture and it brings people in.” There are some challenges to recreational diversification, such as securing the appropriate insurance coverage and protecting against risks in nature, like wasp stings and normal farming practices. Jones described how the Natural Resources Enterprises program helps farmers and ranchers in Mississippi and beyond who are considering integrating recreational activities with their current farm, forestry and ranch practices. Part of the support the program provides is on-site workshops during which growers hear presentations from professionals and landowners who have launched recreational enterprises. How-to information, such as what will work best on the farm and the availability of federal programs, is also discussed.
http://www.natural resources.msstate. edu/
AFBF, plaintiffs file for judgment in Chesapeake Bay case Continued from page 1 the brief, TMDL proposals are “informational tools” under the Clean Water Act. But, in this action, EPA’s final TMDL goes far beyond traditional and lawful scope and authority. “It imposes detailed pollutant ‘allocations’ among sources throughout the bay’s vast watershed,” the brief charged. “These mandatory allocations of allow-
able pollutant loading among farms, towns and homeowners amount to nothing short of a federal TMDL implementation plan. This plan directly encroaches on state authority over land and water quality planning—not only in states bordering the bay, but in states hundreds of miles away. EPA’s action is not authorized under the (Clean Water) Act.” The brief also charges that EPA’s
TMDL is based on flawed technical analysis and computer models. “(EPA) used those models for purposes beyond their predictive capabilities and relied on key assumptions that are demonstrably false,” the brief stated. “Those modeling defects are fatal, even if EPA had the authority (which it does not) for the final TMDL.” A major economic study has also indicated that enforcement of EPA’s bay plan would be expensive—a fact magnified by the nation’s current fiscal challenges.
In 2004, a “blue ribbon panel” report estimated that achieving water quality standards for the bay would cost $28 billion in total upfront capital costs, plus $2.7 billion in subsequent annual costs. Joining AFBF as plaintiffs in the case are the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, The Fertilizer Institute, National Pork Producers Council, National Corn Growers Association, National Chicken Council, U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, National Turkey Federation and the National Association of Home Builders.
Corner Post Top 10 Winter Farmers’ Markets
Since 2010, the Number of Winter Markets has Increased 38 Percent, from 886 to 1,225
New state FB presidents Farmers and ranchers in six states have been elected new Farm Bureau presidents. Pictured left to right are: Dean Okimoto, president, Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, succeeding Myrone Murakami; Steve Hirsch, president, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, who succeeded Brent Porteus earlier last year; Mike LaPlant, president, Washington State Farm Bureau, succeeding Steve Appel; Craig Hill, president, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, succeeding Craig Lang; Doyle Johannes, president, North Dakota Farm Bureau, succeeding Eric Aasmundstad; and Steve Nelson, president, Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, succeeding Keith Olsen.
* New to the Top 10