Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)
P.O. Box 3657
Fayetteville, AR 72702
Phone: 1-800-346-9140 --- FAX: (501) 442-9842
American farm news editors are being urged to promote sustainable
agriculture by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Extension
"Making a living and protecting the environment in which we live
are today's most vital challenges for U.S. farmers and ranchers,"
the Extension Service states in a packet of fact sheets and press
releases mailed this spring to publications. "Intricate government
regulations, costly inputs and advancing urbanization make it
essential for agriculturists, policymakers and city dwellers to
understand the dynamics of sustainable agriculture."
Included in the packet are fact sheets on changing attitudes of
U.S. farmers and examples of state accomplishments under the
Sustainable Agriculture Initiative and the Sustainable Agriculture
Research and Education (SARE) program. Eight press releases
highlight farmers who are using sustainable practices to farm
environmentally and profitably.
For more information, people may contact Charles M. Morgan, Public
Affairs Specialist, USDA Extension Service, Communication,
Information and Technology, Washington, D.C. 20250-0900,
ATTRA Program Manager Jim Lukens on July 14 testified before
a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee at
Washington, D.C. about alternative agriculture's role in "Rural
Economy and Family Farming." Lukens told senators that
sustainable agricultural enterprises and practices are among the
most promising economic development tools for rural areas.
Agriculture still serves as the base of the economy in these
areas, he said.
"American farmers, long known for their ability to innovate, are
today strongly motivated to try new and different enterprises and
methods," Lukens said. From 10,000 to 12,000 farmers each year
call ATTRA for information to improve their economic plight by
substituting on-farm resources for purchased inputs; adding or
switching to alternative higher-profit crops and livestock; and
adding innovative marketing or on-farm processing to their farming
activities, he said.
Lukens said that to spur rural economic development, rural
entrepreneurs need reliable technical information which is
appropriate to their rural setting; better access to financing;
and business management assistance to help them with business
planning, market development, and state and federal regulations.
People who have developed what they believe to be low-risk
pesticide and pest management practices have been invited to
contact the Environmental Protection Agency for federal
registration. The EPA in a notice in the Federal Register in
January announced that it has "embarked on a reduced-risk
pesticide initiative with the primary objective of encouraging the
development, registraion and use of lower risk pesticides and pest
management practices in order to lessen risks to human health and
Applicants who believe they have developed a qualifying new active
ingredient will be invited to make a comparison between the risks
posed by their ingredient and current pesticides for that use. For
a "Pesticide Regulation Notice" form or additional information,
contact Stephanie R. Irene, Registration Division (H7505C), Office
of Pesticide Programs, EPA, 401 M. St., SW, Washington, D. C.
20460, or call (703) 305-5447.
Ron Kroese has been named as the new president for ATTRA's parent
company, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) of
Butte, MT. Kroese, who is executive director of the Land
Stewardship Project in Minnesota, will replace current NCAT
president George Turman.
Turman, who is a former Lt. Governor of Montana and member of the
Montana Public Service Commission and Northwest Power Planning
Council, has served four years as NCAT president. He will
"retire" to his hometown of Missoula, MT., where he will pursue
business and political interests.
NCAT administers national programs on energy and
resource-efficient housing in addition to the ATTRA program. For
further information about NCAT, call 1-406-494-4572.
The University of Georgia, in cooperation with Fort Valley State
College, has been selected as the new southern region headquarters
for USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.
The host site was formerly located at Louisiana State University.
The new host institutions will administer funding, review,
contracts and work plans for education/research proposals; perform
major financial transactions and organize SARE council and
Jim Horne of the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture at
Poteau, OK, has been named chairman of the National Sustainable
Agriculture Advisory Council (NSAAC). The council, which consists
of 14 people from the private sector and 14 government-sector
members, met for an organizational meeting from June 9-11 at
Outgoing U.S. Secretary of Agriculure Edward Madigan in January
created the council to advise future ag secretaries on sustainable
agriculture topics. Private sector members represent five
categories: farmers and ranchers, farm families, human nutrition,
nonprofit organizations and agribusiness.
The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will hold its southern
region meeting September 26-29 at the Arkansas Land and Farm
Development Corporation near Fargo, AR. NOSB is seeking public
input for organic standards guidelines which it is developing.
For information about the southern meeting or other matters,
contact Hal Ricker at: USDA/AMS/TMD, Room 2510, South Building, PO
Box 96456, Washington, D.C. 20090-6456, 202-720-2704 (telephone),
Farmers in 11 states are being encourged via a series of radio
commercials to contact ATTRA and other resources for information
about adopting sustainable farming practices.
Sponsored by a host of sustainable-farming groups and the Center
for Science in the Public Interest under its "Americans for Safe
Food" project, the commercials feature actual farmers discussing
why they made the switch to sustainable agriculture. The
Americans for Safe Food project promotes adoption of public
policies that support sustainable and organic agriculture. The
ads are being aired in Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky,
Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and
"Consumers and farmers are growing more concerned about the high
cost, environmental impact, and health effects of
chemical-intensive farming," CSPI Executive Director Michael
Jacobson said. "We want to urge farmers to reduce the use of
potentially dangerous and polluting chemicals."
Karen Hobert of CSPI, the ad campaign coordinator, said: "The
radio public service announcements will link farmers who are
thinking about switching to sustainable farming with knowledgeable
experts who can help."
In 30- and 60-second versions of the commercials, an announcer
tells listeners, "Across this great land, American farmers are
changing the way they farm. Listen to some of them..."
Three farmers then talk about being convinced to reduce the use of
pesticides because of contaminated wells in their area and of
curbing fertilizer applications without reducing crop yields. The
farmers urge fellow agriculturists to seek expert help in
switching to sustainable practices. At the end of each
commercial, listeners are referred to a local organization which
will provide resource materials on sustainable farming.
Sustainable agriculture groups participating in the campaign
include the Colorado Organic Producers Association, Hoosier
Organic Marketing Education (IN), Kansas Rural Center, Community
Farm Alliance (KY), Michigan Organic Growers Advancement Project,
the Missouri Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, The New Jersey
Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, The New
Mexico Organic Commodity Commission, Sustainable Agriculture
Program of the Politics of Food (NY), Ohio Ecological Food and
Farm Association and Virgina State University Cooperative
ATTRA Program Manager Jim Lukens attended the third in a series of
meetings with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service "IPM Coordinators" on
May 4 at the National Bison Refuge at Moiese, Mont. About 500
head of bison roam the 19,000 acres of the refuge in the Flathead
Valley of western Montana.
ATTRA is helping FWS to implement integrated pest management
programs at 140 national refuges where crops are raised for
wildlife consumption. Lukens noted that many IPM coordinators,
refuge managers and farm program managers in the eight FWS regions
have contacted ATTRA for information about non-chemical
alternatives for crop pest controls such as insects and invasive
non-native plant species.
During the meeting, Lukens and IPM coordinators toured biological
weed control plots maintained by the University of Montana and
USDA/ARS. IPM coordinators in Montana have become active in the
project in which beneficial insects are used to control alien weed
species on native grassland. The coordinators have also worked
closely with the USDA Agriculture and Plant Health Inspection
Service (APHIS), which monitors introduced species of beneficial
FWS has mandated that sustainable farming practices be established
on refuges where local farmers under cooperative agreements leave
a portion of the feedgrain crop on the refuge for wildlife
consumption. For instance, in the Service's Midwest "Region 6,"
refuge managers and farm program coordinators have created a
three-to-five-year plan showing how they plan to reduce or
eliminate pesticide use on select refuges.
An IPM plan released in April by the FWS Upper Level Management
Development Program stated the Service's goal to eliminate, where
possible, pesticide use on refuges to benefit fish and wildlife.
The plan noted that the 2.7 billion pounds of pesticides used each
year in the U.S. have produced long-term effects which have caused
"hundreds of fish and wildlife kills and have affected one-third
of all endangered species." Forty-six states and 20 National
Wildlife Refuges have fish consumption advisories because of the
pollution, while seven states have waterfowl consumption
advisories, the plan stated.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that in the last
years, 38 percent of fish extinctions are attributable, in part,
to water pollution...As the manager of millions of acres of public
lands and hundreds of facilities, the Service must set a good
example in land stewardship by reducing pesticide use on Service
lands," the plan found.
ATTRA agronomist Dr. Preston Sullivan explained the role which
integrated pest managment plays in sustainable agriculture
programs to "Region 2" U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel
attending the "IPM Workshop" at Phoenix, Ariz., from June 16-17.
Region 2 includes national wildlife refuges in Arizona, New
Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
Sullivan and three other trainers helped refuge managers attending
the workshop to draw up individual IPM plans for their refuges.
Other trainers included Don Dahlsten, chief of the Division of
Biological Control at the University of California at Berkeley;
Dave Langston, Extension entomologist and IPM specialist with the
Maricopa Agricultural Center at Maricopa, Ariz.; and Professor Tom
Lanini, Extension weed ecologist at the University of California
at Davis. Five refuge managers who have instituted IPM plans
related drawbacks and benefits of reducing or eliminating
pesticides at their refuges.
America's rural communities will undergo a renaissance in the 21st
Century as people with new technologies flee from problematic
urban areas to the quiet of country life, Dr. John E. Ikerd told
participants May 7 at the "Showcase of Projects & Resources for
Rural Community Development in Arkansas."
A diversity of people seeking a sense of community and including
such people as small business entrepreneurs, sustainable
agriculturists and practitioners of a "knowledge society" will
resettle declining rural areas, Ikerd said.
Ikerd, who directs the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Program at
the University of Missouri at Columbia, was keynote speaker at the
one-day symposium at the Arkansas 4-H Center near Little Rock
which highlighted successful Arkansas community projects. The
symposium was co-sponsored by the National Center for Appropriate
Technology (which administers the ATTRA program), Arkansas Land
and Farm Development Corporation, Arkansas Rural Development
Commission/Office of Rural Advocacy and Arkansas Cooperative
Ikerd noted that the decline of rural Arkansas communities -
largely because of industrial agriculture - parallels the
"depression, decline and decay" of rural areas across America.
But he said that this rural downturn is not an irreversible trend
but only a part of an historical cycle.
"Over the past fifty years many rural communities seem to have
lost their purpose," he said. "The basic trend during this period
has been toward fewer, larger and more specialized farms. The
result has been declining rural populations, declining demand for
local markets and locally-purchased inputs, and a resulting
economic decay of many rural communities."
While some communities have attempted to diversify their economies
to reduce their dependence on agriculture, others abandoned
agriculture as a basis for economic development.
"Industry hunting became a preoccupation of many small town
councils and chambers of commerce," Ikerd noted. "Jobs, any kind
at any cost, seemed to be the primary development objective in
some declining rural communities."
Some large companies which moved to rural areas to exploit
"undervalued people, capital and natural resources" have created a
class of "working poor" people, Ikerd said. Now many of these
companies have relocated overseas where laborers are willing to
work even harder for less money. "Efforts to attract low quality,
low paying jobs are increasingly regarded as expensive and
ineffective strategies for rural economic development," he said.
Likewise, some rural communities have promoted small-scale
projects such as annual festivals, niche markets and tourist
attractions as stop-gap economic development. But these
communities are continuing to search for a new fundamental purpose
for their existence. As hopeless as it may appear, Ikerd said
decline of rural America may be just part of a trend. "But trends
never continue, at least not indefinitely," he said.
Ikerd noted a recent report in Science magazine by a group of
international scientists who listed the 20 greatest scientific
ideas of all time. Among the top 20 were the existence of gravity,
the first and second laws of thermodynamics, and the theory that
all events occur in cycles, including all physical, biological and
"Based on this theory, any trend is, in fact, just a phase of a
cycle," he said. Recent events in what was once Communist Russia
are an example of a cyclical historical turning point, he said.
Ikerd foresees a migration of people from urban to rural areas
because of the unliveability of large American cities, a new
emphasis on "knowledge-based" jobs, and modern communication
technologies which allow business to be conducted from even the
remotest of locations. Coupled with this, he believes that
large-scale, industrial agriculture will give way to more
sustainable agriculture because of environmental and social
"The theory of cycles would imply that farms do not get either
larger or smaller forever, but instead cycle between larger and
smaller over time," he said. "If we think back over past centuries
and around the globe, we can find examples where control of land
became concentrated in the hands of a few, only to later become
dispersed in control among the many. the most significant such
occurrence in the U.S. may have been the development and later
demise of plantation agriculture in the South."
Rural areas are also becoming more alluring places to live for
people frustrated with the overcrowding, crime, pollution and high
living costs of cities, Ikerd said. "The cities have already lost
much of their purpose as places for people to live," he said.
"People are abandoning the cities for the suburbs for quality of
life reasons...many people are now free to abandon the suburbs for
rural areas for quality of life reasons as well: more living
space, a cleaner environment, prettier landscapes and, perhaps
most important, to regain a sense of community, a sense of
Ikerd cited predictions for America's third millenium by authors
Alvin Toffler (Powershift), Peter Drucker (The New Realities), new
U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich (The Work of Nations) and
John Naisbitt and Patricia Aburdene (Megatrends 2000). These
authors foresee such trends as the demise of the "mass production"
model of industrialization and a new emphasis on customized goods
and services aimed at niche markets; a new focus on innovative,
value-added products; specialized production wherein tailoring
products to the desires of specific customers replaces low price
as a source of value; a new class of workers dedicated not to rote
industry and service but to "knowledge" work; the hiatus of
small-time entrepreneurs who concentrate on improving the quality
of jobs over quantity; and the rise of sustainable agriculture as
a knowledge-based system of farming that depends on the
productivity of local people.
These people, linked by telephone, FAX machines, computers and
express mail, will comprise a new "electronic heartland" which
will not only do business on a local and national level but
globally. This new class of culturally-diverse workers - dubbed
the "mind workers" by Reich - will be symbolic-analysts who will
serve as problem identifiers and solvers. Their numbers will
include such professions as scientists, design engineers,
investment bankers, doctors, public relations executives, lawyers,
real estate developers, consultants, writers, editors, musicians,
production designers and teachers.
Authors Naisbitt and Aburdene foresee two great unifying themes in
the 21st Century - the empowerment of the individual because of
new technologies and the rise of small-time, "mind-worker"
entrepreneurs. They point out that these types of entrepreneurs
during the past decade have seized multibillion-dollar markets
from large well-heeled corporations, and that in the past 10 years
about two-thirds of all new non-farm jobs were created by small
"A community must share its vision of the future rural America
what it is doing to shape its own future with others if it is to
share in the rural renaissance," Ikerd said. "There may be a great
untapped demand for what rural communities have, or can have, to
offer. Productive people who desire a better quality of life may
simply be locked into an old vision of rural communities as places
of depression, decline and decay."
Ikerd said people must share their different visions of what they
would like their community to become, and determine common
elements as the nucleus for a "shared vision".
"A community that has found a shared vision for the future has
made its first critical step toward self-vitalization," he said.
"To paraphrase Jesse Jackson, if they can conceive it, and believe
it, they quite likely can achieve it. The future of rural America
belongs to those who are willing to claim it."
Readers may request the complete text of Ikerd's speech by
contacting ATTRA at 1-800-346-9140.
About 75 grassroots community organizations, state agencies and
private foundations attended the "Showcase of Projects & Resources
for Rural Community Development in Arkansas," which was hosted by
ATTRA on May 7 at the Arkansas 4-H Center near Little Rock.
Six grassroots community organizations at a morning presentation
described how they had launched such community projects as daycare
and healthcare centers, small entrepreneurial and micro enterprise
loan programs, and commercial enterprises such as laundromats,
restaurants, a panelized house manufacturing facility, a shiitake
mushroom cooperative and a wood products marketing venture.
Two afternoon panels at the Showcase discussed the role of small
farm investment and resource efficient housing in rural community
development. One of the panelists - the Arkansas Land and Farm
Development Corporation (ALFDC) - was presented the "Voluntary
Action Award" in April by President Bill Clinton for having helped
financially-troubled black farmers in Arkansas retain over 15,000
acres of farmland since the organization's founding in 1980.
A recent telephone call from a Missouri fish hatchery signaled the
beginning of another busy week for ATTRA's 17 technical
The hatchery owner, who had used ATTRA information to help produce
over 250,000 pounds of fish last year, wanted advice on how to
culture catfish in floating cages and raise grass carp. Two techs
were assigned to seek the latest printed and electronic
information on his requests.
That week, the techs fielded another 200 calls on a surprising
assortment of sustainable agriculture topics from a mixed
clientele of farmers and ranchers, researchers, Extension agents,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuge managers, crop consultants
and agribusinesses across the U.S. Since ATTRA's founding in
1987, the techs have prepared over 43,000 reports for clients.
Technical specialists answering ATTRA's 800-lines jot down
extensive notes about a caller's questions. At meetings each
Thursday and Friday, individual cases are assigned to members of
the agronomy or "A" team, the horticulture or "H" team, and the
Animal Science or "Beast" team. Written reports prepared by the
techs are reviewed by members of the Information Team and a
rotating group of technical specialists before being mailed to
A case report for a recent week reveals the variety of callers and
topics in an ATTRA tech's work-week.
A hog farmer in South Dakota sought advice on a cover crop which
he could interseed with oats with a root system hardy enough to
withstand grazing and rooting by his herd. Also, what about some
type of sturdy, moveable structure which could serve as "portable
shade" for his hogs?
"I'm interested in processing apples on my farm for cidar
production," an orchardist in Kentucky told techs about his desire
to supplement farm income with a value-added product.
Several calls from managers at national Fish and Wildlife Refuges,
where extensive acreages are devoted to farming, were received.
One refuge manager in Louisiana sought ways to interseed wheat
into standing corn just prior to mowing it for use by geese, while
another manager in Oregon requested information on integrated pest
management practices to control pepperweed, lambsquarter, pigweed
and aphids in wheat stands there. A third refuge in Washington
State asked about IPM alternatives and low-input herbicides for
corn grown under circle irrigation.
People in government agencies devoted to helping farmers
frequently contact ATTRA for sustainable agriculture advice.
Calls that week included requests from Extension agents in
Washington and Arkansas, respectively, about growing annual
flowers in greenhouses and using manures as a livestock feed
supplement; a Conservation District in Illinois on types of weeds
and mosses which grass carp will consume; a city planner in Alaska
about greenhouse composting; an Indian tribal planner in
Washington about treating sewage in an integrated artificial
wetland and aquaculture enterprise; and two state agriculture
departments in Vermont and Maine, respectively, about raising hogs
sustainably and alternative ways to exclude crows from
Calls about rotational grazing and grass-based production were
logged from ranchers (cow-calf and stockers) and dairymen in Ohio,
Pennsylvania, Tennessee and New York.
And there were calls for lists of companies offering equipment,
seed and other farm supplies. A fruit researcher in Maryland
requested seed supply sources for tropical fruits; a Pennsylvania
farmer sought lists of equipment suppliers for hulling oats and
spelt; and a Florida organic producer requested bibliographic
references for establishing an insectory for beneficial insects.
Through the week the techs received calls on a variety of farm
topics which included growing buckwheat in Pennsylvania, tomatoes
in Kentucky, cut flowers in Connecticutt, pecans in California and
Christmas trees in Wisconsin; using select cover crops in New york
to promote beneficial insects and biocontrols; using least-toxic
controls for a cut-flower farm in Oregon; selecting legumes to add
nitrogen to pastures and control bloat in cattle on a Kansas
ranch; and using old newspapers for mulch and weed control on a
vegetable truck farm in Washington.
Case logs show that the techs that week received calls for
information on permaculture; crawfish; living mulches; asparagus;
rhubarb; electric fencing; foxtail, corn earworm, root weevil,
grasshopper and Russian thistle control; artificial insemination
of sheep; organic nursery production; maple syrup production; soil
amendments; castor beans; neem; raising earthworms; making
bonemeal; salt-tolerant crops; ag enterprise computer systems;
dairy farm organic fly control; dairy cheese-making; breed
assistance for sheep, goats and cattle; deer control in apple
prchards; Holstein beef production; raising free-range turkeys;
rabbitrys; trout culture; organic grapes; gopher, rabbit and
rodent control; hydroponics; solar greenhouses; green manures;
herb cultivation; commercial composting; bioponics; soil blocks;
and many more.
Variety is the staple of life for ATTRA's busy techs.
Farmer Participation in Research for Sustainable Agriculture. ATTRA has a limited supply of these booklets which were compiled as conference proceedings of the Arkansas/Oklahoma Sustainable Agriculture Network. To request a booklet, call 1-800-346-9140.