Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)
P.O. Box 3657
Fayetteville, AR 72702
Phone: 1-800-346-9140 --- FAX: (501) 442-9842
ATTRA in 1996 will be funded by the recently revamped U.S. Department of Agriculture, but its mission to provide the latest information about sustainable agriculture to professional agriculturists will remain unchanged. Also, ATTRA will continue to operate from offices at the landgrant University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with the same toll-free number.
In February, ATTRA will be included in the USDA's Rural Business - Cooperative Service (RBS). More specifically, ATTRA will work with the Cooperative Services Program of the RBS, which along with two other major programs is part of the USDA's Rural Economic and Community Development (RECD) program.
The USDA/RECD was created during the 1994 reorganization of the USDA, as the USDA consolidated rural economic programs which had previously been scattered among various agencies. The Farmers Home Administration, Rural Development Administration, Rural Electrification Administration and Agriculture Cooperative Service were discontinued, with their roles passed to the RECD.
To serve the 61 million people living in U.S. rural areas —40% of whom have incomes that classify them below the federal poverty level — RECD funds projects and provides technical assistance to create quality business opportunities, jobs, services, housing and utilities in rural communities.
The RECD recognizes that the federal government cannot by itself solve the problems facing rural America. So, it attempts to influence and motivate others — such as state, local and tribal governments, private and nonprofit organizations, and user-owned cooperatives — to engage in rural revitalization.
RECD programs are administered through three rural development services: the Rural Business - Cooperative Service, the Rural Utilities Service and the Rural Housing Service.
The Rural Business - Cooperative Service works to enhance the quality of rural life by providing leadership in building competitive businesses and cooperatives that will prosper in the global marketplace.
RBS encompasses the former Agricultural Cooperative Service and some of the business and economic programs of the former Rural Development Administration and Rural Electrification Administration. RECD field offices administer RBS and other USDA rural development programs at the local level.
"ATTRA's affiliation with RBS will be good for us and for the agency," says ATTRA Project Manager Teresa Maurer.
One of RBS's mission goals is to: "Assist in the development of strategic, sustainable and environmentally sensitive economic growth that meets the expressed needs of rural communities."
"We identify strongly with that mission," says Maurer, "and we look forward to our new relationship with the agency while continuing to serve farmers, ranchers and others involved in agriculture."
Randall Torgerson, deputy administrator for Cooperative Services, also notes, "The fact that both ATTRA and Cooperative Services serve a farm-oriented clientele that is thirsty for information on how to farm and market more effectively certainly makes them a good fit.
"With farm program changes resulting in a lower safety net, farmers and ranchers are pressed to find self-help solutions in marketing and more effective means of sustainable production. Our joint programs address these critical needs," he says.
The Cooperative Services (CS) Program of the RBS helps rural residents to form new cooperative businesses and improve operations of existing co-ops. CS services range from an initial feasibility study to development of a business plan, including helping to identify sources of financial assistance. It also carries out a program of research, education and information on the cooperative method of doing business, and has over 100 publications under title. Ag marketing, farm supply and related service cooperatives are its primary focus.
Readers and cooperatives can obtain more information about CS by contacting USDA/RBS Cooperative Services, AG Box 3255, Washington, DC 20250-3255, phone (202) 720-7558.
ATTRA will continue to serve as a national provider of sustainable agriculture information in FY96, thanks in large part to the efforts of its many friends in the agricultural sector, Congress and the Clinton Administration.
On September 28 after a funding cliffhanger and a flurry of activity by ATTRA supporters, the Congressional Joint Conference Agricultural Appropriations Committee approved funding to keep ATTRA alive in FY96.
Prospects for ATTRA's survival looked glum last June when the U.S. House of Representatives in its markup of the 1996 federal budget offered words of praise for ATTRA but zeroed out FY96 funding.
Soon after that development was reported in the September issue of ATTRAnews, ATTRA supporters and sustainable agriculture organizations launched a call-in effort to representatives and senators in key states. Action alerts were issued by the Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, the National Family Farm Coalition and others.
In mid-September, Senators J. Robert Kerrey (NE) and Herb Kohl (WI), with strong support from Senator Dale Bumpers (AR), introduced an amendment to transfer $2.3 million of USDA rural development funds to a category which included ATTRA and the Rural Technology and Cooperative Development Grants Program (RTCDGP). The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment containing language recommending "up to $1.3 million for ATTRA."
Finally on Sept. 28, with broad bipartisan support, the Joint Conference Agricultural Appropriations Committee approved the bill containing the Kerry-Kohl amendment. Other Congressmen backing the bill were Jay Dickey (AR), Richard Durbin (IL), Marcy Kaptur (OH), Frank Riggs (CA), Ray Thornton (AR) and James Walsh (NY), and Senators Conrad Burns (MT), Thad Cochran (MS), Tom Harkin (IA), Arlen Specter (PA), and others.
ATTRA is now working with USDA officials to receive FY96 funding of $1.3 million. As ATTRA Project Manager Teresa Maurer notes, ATTRA caseload increased by 25% in FY95 and so the $1.3 million in funding would enable staffers to keep pace with anticipated information requests in FY96.
ATTRA's horticulture staff members have created some new publications about topics which are currently receiving a great deal of discussion in U.S. farm circles. Requests for information on the topics has increased sharply at ATTRA.
"The new Current Topics publications will enable us to respond quickly with concise, detailed information about the topics which are of growing interest to our users," ATTRA Technical Specialist Rex Dufour says.
As with other ATTRA standard materials, Current Topics will be mailed within 48 hours of a caller's request.
In addition to the new publications, ATTRA horticulturists have also revised several other publications on topics of current interest to the farm sector.
ATTRA users may order any of the following new and revised materials, which are:
Albrecht-Reams Biological Fertility Systems
Alternative Nematode Control
Bananas: Organic Production
Citrus: Organic Production
Hard Squash, Pumpkins, and
Gourds: Organic Production
Organic Sweet Corn Production
Radionics in Agriculture
Sustainable Fireant Management
Organic Tomato Production
Field-Grown Cut and Dried Flowers
Herb Production and Marketing
Hydroponic Vegetable Production
Integrated Pest Management
Organic Blueberry Culture
Organic/ Low-Spray Apple Production
Sustainable Pecan Production
By: ATTRA Program Manager Teresa Maurer
I'm looking at a bar chart for the number of requests ATTRA has responded to between 1989-1995, and am especially interested in the comparison between the 1994 and 1995 reporting years. Our staff completed more than 16,000 cases in 1995, a 25% increase over 1994. ATTRA's funding was the same in both years. I look back to 1989, when we completed a little more than 4000 requests, so that our current level of requests is quadruple that of the earlier years of the project.
I feel proud of our staff who worked together to allow us to respond to this continually increasing interest from the agricultural community.
A few of the tasks that contributed to a successful 1995 include: improving telephone reception, data entry and mailout; designing, writing, editing and publicizing new materials and newsletters; organizing and updating our library materials; improving our computer system performance and Internet access; keeping accounting and office operations working well; leading and guiding others.
But requests or "cases" as we call them, are only one indicator of the ways in which ATTRA helps others. Our staff are speakers, exhibitors and organizers of meetings and conferences where farmers, extensionists, researchers, agency personnel, information providers, agribusinesses and others benefit from learning about our service or about technical topics.
We get many more requests for this kind of assistance than we have staff time and resources to respond to. Often we send materials and displays when we ourselves cannot attend.
ATTRA also publicizes and recognizes the innovative work of organizations and farmers, researchers and educators, thereby spreading their impact and influence beyond what they may be able to do on their own. In addition to technical production-related questions, we have provided information to newsletter writers and other media seeking information on sustainable agriculture. My phone might ring at any time, and someone may ask me for contact information for a person, group or project. Another staff member's phone may ring and a researcher or farmer who gave ATTRA information on their latest work might now need a quick tip in identifying a resource THEY need.
These and other linkages that we do as part of our daily work may never show up in the case statistics, but are still an important part of our contribution to the agricultural community.
Several ATTRA staff members are helping to coordinate local host sites for a national video conference scheduled for Feb. 26 by Renew America, a national nonprofit founded in 1979 to help solve the country's most critical environmental problems. Renew America conducts the Environmental Success Index, the National Awards for Enviromental Sustainability, and the National Town Meeting.
Town Meeting," the 90-minute, interactive video conference will downlink opinion makers with over 60 participating U.S. cities which face common environmental problems. The town meeting is sponsored this year by AT&T and the U.S. Department of Energy and moderated by former CBS and CNN correspondent Deborah Potter.
The National Center for Appropriate Technology — which administers the ATTRA project and many programs dealing with sustainable agriculture, low-income energy/housing issuesand resource-efficient housing -— is co-sponsoring community panel discussions for the video conference at Butte, MT, and Fayetteville, AR.
National panelists for the video conference will include Henry Cisneros, Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Housing; Christine Ervin, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of Energy; David Brower, chairman of Earth Island Institute; Al Weed, chairman of the Sustainable Economic Development Group, Thomas Jefferson Sustainability Council; and Emanuel Cleaver, Kansas City mayor.
People wishing to obtain further information or attend conference events at Fayetteville, AR, should contact Cynthia Arnold, ATTRA, P.O. Box 3657, Fayetteville, AR 72702, phone (501) 442-9824, fax (501) 442-9842, email address email@example.com.
Information about the Butte, MT, conference can be obtained from Jeff Birkby, National Center for Appropriate Technology, P.O. Box 3838, Butte, MT 59702, phone (406) 494-4572, fax (406) 494-2905, email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
ATTRA will conclude a fruitful and enjoyable seven-year partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in February when it comes under auspices of the USDA.
"We will miss working with the many good friends we made in the Service, but want them to know how much we appreciate the support and guidance they have provided since taking us under their wing in 1989," ATTRA Project Manager Teresa Maurer says.
In addition to its work of providing information of benefit to the U.S. environment and wildlife, ATTRA helped the Fish and Wildlife Service with several specific projects. ATTRA specialists presented technical information at Service workshops and assisted refuge managers as they implemented IPM programs on their refuges.
"We hope that Service personnel and their farmer cooperators will continue to call ATTRA for sustainable agriculture information in their important work of preserving wildlife populations and habitats," Maurer notes. "We have great expectations for our new home within USDA, but will always treasure our personable working relationship with Fish and Wildlife."
"There are as many visions of the farming future, of course, as there are definitions of sustainablility...What I brought back from the road, from the farm, are some exemplary tales from a few places where sustainable agriculture has taken hold and is promising to spread throughout the United States."
-- Author Verlyn Klinkenborg,
"A Farming Revolution," National
Geographic, December, 1995