Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)
P.O. Box 3657
Fayetteville, AR 72702
Phone: 1-800-346-9140 --- FAX: (501) 442-9842
On June 14, the House of Representatives opted not to include funding for ATTRA in its markup of the 1996 budget. Action on the appropriation now passes to the Senate.
Markup on the Senate side and a vote on the Senate floor is expected in the second or third week of September. The markup and vote would determine the Senate's recommendation for ATTRA funding.
Senate support for the ATTRA appropriation and a successful full floor vote are the only routes for ATTRA funding to continue to be considered in the Congressional budget process. The proposed appropriation level for ATTRA is $1.3 million, which represents no change over the previous year and requires no new funding.
A $0 vote on the Senate side would cut all FY96 funds for ATTRA, and end the program. A successful Senate vote would move action to the joint conference committee, which may meet as early as the third or fourth week in September. Both House and Senate members must support and agree on the appropriation level. An unsuccessful vote in conference committee could result in $0 or severely reduced funding.
The Senate is also expected to discuss funding for other sustainable agriculture programs this month. The House has suggested the following funding appropriations:
SARE: An $8 million appropriation, a slight reduction from last year's appropriation of $8.1 million, was approved for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.
SATDTP: A $3.5 million appropriation, the same as last year, was approved for the Sustainable Agriculture Technology Development and Transfer Program.
OFPA: A $556,000 appropriation was approved for the Organic Foods Production Act, which was the final appropriation level for FY95 and FY94.
WQIP: An $11 million appropriation was approved for the Water Quality Incentive Program. Final appropriation in FY95 was $15 million.
WRP: A $77 million appropriation was approved for the Wetlands Reserve Program. Final appropriation in FY95 was $93.2 million.
NRCS: An appropriation of $629.9 million was approved for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, an increase of $43 million from the FY95 appropriation of $586.9 million.
U.S. farmers will be urged in a national radio campaign this fall to call ATTRA for help in switching to sustainable agriculture systems and technologies.
Sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) of Washington, D.C., the campaign will be launched this fall on about 200 radio stations in 20 states.
"The radio spots will urge mainstream farmers to call ATTRA for information on sustainable practices, organic production, food safety, pesticides, and public policies which will promote organic and low-input farming," says CSPI Research Assistant Rebecca Kapstein.
Amidst stirring music, an announcer in the series of 30- and 60- second public service announcements will note: "Across this great land, American farmers are changing the way they farm. Listen to some of them..." Real farmers will then relate how with sustainable agriculture concepts they trimmed input costs, maintained good yields and improved the environment. The announcer will then urge listeners to call ATTRA for sustainable farming information.
Kapstein said that CSPI is conducting the campaign as part of its "Americans for Safe Food Project."
Andy Clark is the new Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) coordinator with an office based in Beltsville, MD. He takes over the reins from Gabriel Hegyes, the first SAN coordinator who recently resigned to pursue other career interests.
Both Hegyes and SAN mainstay Jayne MacLean played key roles in getting Clark up to speed with position responsibilities, with Hegyes taking time to train Clark and MacClean rounding out his orientation experience.
"I would like to publicly thank Gabriel for the three days he spent training me," Clark said recently. "Jayne MacLean, who has been involved with SAN since its inception, spent two days with me, and I'm grateful to her for her help, and for her many contributions to SAN. I'm still trying to digest everything we covered about the many duties of the SAN Coordinator."
Clark's gravitation toward sustainable agriculture began when he was doing graduate work in agronomy at the University of Maryland. Influenced in part by the Rodale Institute, plus others in the organic farming community, Rachel Carson and his experience as a small-scale landscaper, he learned then he wanted to avoid the overuse of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Working as an Agronomy Department technician at UM, Clark studied under Dr. Morris Decker and did his M.S. work in cover crop research. In 1988, Professor Decker agreed to continue to work with Clark on his ensuing Ph.D project aimed at cover crop management.
"We were fortunate to obtain a grant from the Northeast Region of the LISA program, and embarked on a large project, which included small plots and on-farm studies," Clark said. "We later applied for - and received - a second, smaller grant from the SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) program, in which we again cooperated with Maryland farmers in field-scale demonstration plots incorporating aspects of cover crop management from my small plot research."
Clark completed work on his Ph.D in 1993 and stayed on the UM staff. He coordinated the small grain breeding program while job- hunting. His next career step involved a one-year post-doctorate project at USDA/ARS in Beltsville. His research focused on heavy metals in wheat, however environmental funding began to look bleak at the end of 1994.
Beltsville was the right place for Clark to be as the SAN Coordinator position came open and he proved to be the ideal candidate to head the now 750+ member organization. And for Clark, the research opportunities are not over in his new position.
"I am very pleased to be in a position where I can not only keep abreast of developments in sustainable agriculture, but also where I am responsible for helping all interested parties stay informed as well," he said. "Throughout my graduate work, I was involved in dissemination of information, particularly to producers. I am excited to again be in a position of information dissemination."
"As advances in information technology continue to accelerate, I hope that members of the Sustainable Agriculture Network continue to contribute to that technology, and that we are all able to use the technology to contribute to the sustainability of agriculture worldwide."
At a recent staff meeting here, we spent some time discussing ATTRA project goals and strategies. In this column, I'd like to share a draft of that initial thinking with you.
One working version of our mission statement is this: "To promote the adoption and practice of environmentally sound sustainable agriculture by providing reliable and practical technical information about agricultural production and marketing to American farmers."
Our overall Service Goal expands upon the above statement. "We respond to farmers, information providers, organizations and communities seeking information that will help change, renew and support an ecologically and economically sound agriculture."
To define our future and current work, we strive towards this Service Goal using these strategies:
Provide courteous reception, efficient selection and timely delivery of excellent, satisfying and useful sustainable agricultural information.
Indentify current and new information products and services that meet the highest priority needs of current, new and potential users of our service.
Effectively use and choose techniques and technologies for information acquisition, management and delivery (physical and electronic) which benefit our calls.
Continue to develop and retain a highly-qualified, well- supported and motivated staff, who reflect the diversity of the people and organizations we serve.
Refine and use new ways to measure and report the impact of ATTRA's work on our callers, on agricultural production practices and on the quality of sustainable agricultural information.
This summer, we achieved and passed some important benchmarks which indicate the ongoing need and interest in our services.
As I write this, we have responded to over 73,000 requests since the project began in 1987. On August 3, with about two months to go before our 1994-95 reporting year ends in September, we had answered 12,400 queries, surpassing the previous reporting-year total.
We have received hundreds of letters and photos from our callers replying to our "Feedback" questionnaires. You shared stories on how you are putting our information to work, and your suggestions are helping us to define how we can meet new needs in a changing agricultural environment.
Keep it up, tell another farming friend or neighbor about us -- we appreciate and need your continuing interest and support!
An article by ATTRA information specialist Katherine Adam on culinary and medicinal uses of the aromatic spice herb ajwain has been published in THE BUSINESS OF HERBS (September-October, 1995). On the basis of experience with a test plot, Katherine found potential for a niche market and micro-enterprise development.
"We grow wheat grass (for juice), herbs and flowers for teas and potpourri, and specialty greens and flowers for restaurants and caterers, and are active with our farm six to seven months per year, depending mostly on winter," Tom Lee of Palmer, AK, says of his family's farm in the Talkeetra Mountains about 100 miles northeast of Anchorage.
Lee is the first of 723 entrants in the upcoming Third Edition, Sustainable Agriculture Directory of Expertise which chronicles the experiences and skills of farming proponents in all 50 states, Washington, DC, and three U.S. territories.
ATTRA staff members recently completed work on compiling the directory, which is scheduled for release in early 1996 by the USDA's SARE program. Published by Rodale Institute, the directory is a project of the Sustainable Agriculture Network, a consortium of individuals and groups nationwide.
Alphabetically state by state, the individuals and organizations in the directory reveal their special skills and knowledge about sustainable farming technologies, systems and practices. Among their roster are 169 farmers and ranchers, 162 Extension personnel, 247 agricultural researchers, 232 information providers (many of them are farmers and Extensioneers) and 72 agribusinesses.
"One of our big projects is to develop greenhouse technology to significantly extend our growing season," Lee relates goals of his family's Alaska farm. "We are off the grid and use solar electricity, with the intent to use hydroelectric and potentially wind power."
The directory ranges across the American farm landscape, and over the seas to such places as the Hawaiian and Virgin isles. At Alyce Birchenough's "Sweet Home Farm" at Elberta, AL, readers learn about a small farmstead cheese operation.
"We farm organically and practice rotational grazing for our milking herd of Guernsey cows and Nubian goats, Alice says. "We process all milk produced on the farm into 20 varieties of hard and soft cheeses in our dairy plant. All products are sold retail at our farm store. Produce, value-added products, and cross-bred feeder beef cattle are raised for additional income."
Several pages onward, directory users will visit the farm of Charles Eselgroth of Greenwood, OH, who says, "My main crops are corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. I also graze brood cows and breeding ewes, producing feeder calves and slaughter lambs. I am currently doing research on the value of cover crops for weed suppression and nitrogen fixation in no-till grain production. We have been able to reduce herbicide costs to less than $10 per acre. My research results are distributed through newsletters and research summaries of the Innovative Farmers of Ohio. I also host field days co-sponsored by Innovative Farmers and the local Soil and Water Conservation District."
Traveling to the West Coast, Gene Bock of J & G Agrow-Tek at Rancho Cordova, CA, tells directory users, "My company manufactures Kelp Sea Life(TM), a liquid concentrated seaweed. It is derived from ascophyllum nobosum kelp, and we complex this product with other primary organic products and trace elements for the organic, sustainable and conventional growers. We supply fertilizers and soil amendments to the industry, plus donate fish and seaweed products to the University of California at Davis for its organic and sustainable test growing grounds."
Still further west, directory users can read about the work of Howard Hirae, of the Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. "I work with macadamia, guava and banana crops, and have started a sustainable agriculture association to help my clientele explore alternative methods to the conventional farming practices."
Back on the Mainland, directory users will visit the operations of sustainable agriculture practitioners in 38 more states, concluding the tour at the Laramie, Wyoming, ranch of Jeff Powell, who raises sheep, cattle and alfalfa. He also works as a ranch consultant.
"As a consultant, I work to maintain a way of life for rural families and communities through increased ranch resource efficiency, supplemental income, and value-added agriculture."
The Sustainable Agriculture Directory of Expertise debuted in print version in 1993 and was available via computer diskette in an updated 1994 edition.
To compile data for the Third Edition, ATTRA staff members beginning last winter mailed 2,500 surveys to sustainable farming experts throughout the U.S. Nominees who were willing to share their expertise with others were recruited through a series of publicity efforts and personal contact.
Entrants in the directory relate their special expertise in sustainable agriculture - crop, forage and livestock production, soil and water management, marketing, organics, pest control, cropping systems, erosion control and irrigation methods, and livestock feed and health management systems.
Descriptions by the entrants of their work on the farms, research units, universities, government halls, farm organizations and agribusinesses help to paint a mural of this time and place in a dynamic American agriculture movement. Entrants also relate their own personal approach and philosophy about sustainable agriculture, thus revealing the many different ways proponents view and pursue sustainable agriculture.
ATTRA staff members working on the directory included Cynthia Arnold, Betty Blomberg, Ellen Clough, Jim Lukens, Stuart Penn and David Zodrow.
The directory will be available for sale through the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. Ordering information will be announced through ATTRAnews and other information sources later this year.
Again, ATTRA wishes to thank all those who completed and returned the feedback questionnaires that were mailed out to our readers earlier this year. We hope to use the information to evaluate the effectiveness of our services, and are eager to share what we have learned with others in the sustainable agriculture community. We also encourage those of you who have not mailed in your questionnaires, to do so. Your comments and advice are appreciated!
It is truly gratifying to know that the information we provide has helped save a business or given that much-needed nudge to a prospective farmer.
As an example, Joyce Young, an organic farmer in Greenfield, MA, says that ATTRA materials have actually helped to keep her business in business! She says, "They've helped answer critical questions about disease/pest control, specific cultural information, and marketing. I feel very strongly that ATTRA is one of the best uses of our federal tax dollars that I have come across!!"
Keith A. Leavitt appreciates the help he received in getting started in using drip irrigation. The system he finally purchased with literature provided by ATTRA has been in use for two years "with excellent performance."
Jude Lichtenstein of Friendship Hill Farm in Oregon says ATTRA materials have helped to evaluate projects that contribute to farm diversification.
We asked ATTRA readers if they would use our services again. Here's a sampling of what they said:
At West End-St. Mary Parish in Louisiana, Champion Communities participants are assisting black farm workers in building and renovating homes.
Champion Communities members in Coffee County, TN, have organized a retail shop for 300 area craftspeople.
And at Bryan, TX, the Champion Communities project through the Brazos Valley Community Action Agency is providing bus service to 14 rural counties.
Several ATTRA staffers are working on a special USDA project which, in part, will identify successful development strategies initiated by 194 of the poorest rural communities in the U.S. These "success stories" will be included in a report offered this fall on how the USDA's Office of Small Communities and Rural Development can further assist these communities.
The effort is being conducted under the Champion Communities Project, which is part of President Clinton's Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Communities (EZ/EC) Program to provide $2.5 billion to 95 urban and rural communities and zones. Champion Communities are those which developed comprehensive strategic development plans in applying for EZ/EC status but were not funded. The Champion Communities Project is being co-coordinated by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), which administers the ATTRA project.
"Shrinking competition in the food industry has enabled agribusinesses to pay farmers below their costs of production for raw food products while increasing the prices consumers pay at the retail level...Meanwhile, agribusiness corporations which control the transport, processing, marketing and retailing of our food enjoy record profits. America's farmers and consumers are being shortchanged." -- Editors Gigi DiGiacomo and Harry Smith, Farm Aid News, June, 1995