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Center for Rural Affairs Publishes July 2003 Newsletter

EQIP Program Rules Released
Family Farm Pork Production Falls Dramatically

USDA’s Conservation Compliance Effort Flawed

Tupelo Model of Development
New Homestead Act in U.S. House
Corporate Farming Notes
Nebraska Legislative Wrap-up
Producer vs. Farmer or Rancher: What’s in a Word?
Zoning and Livestock Law Review
New Farm Bill Initiative Promises Real Rural Benefits
Partnerships and Cooperation Program Offers Real Promise Groundbreaking in Lyons, Neb.
Center Yard Signs Available

Feature Article: Swept Away: Report Examines Economic Conditions of Midwest


Notables this Month

Niman Ranch Pork Company is looking for new family farmers to join their fast-growing company that produces free range all natural pork not grown in confinements, not fed animal by-products, and not given any antibiotics. For more information about Niman Ranch Pork Company, contact Philip Kramer at 641.998.2683 or philipk@nimanranch.com.

The 2003 Nebraska Grazing Conference will be held Aug. 11-12, 2003 at the Holiday Inn in Kearney. The conference will feature low-cost grazing strategies; building local, producer-based coalitions; stewardship and biodiversity; drought; and more. Register online at www.grassland.unl.edu/grazeconf.htm or contact Buffalo County Extension, 308.236.1235 for information.

Sustaining Food and Environment: An Australian and U.S. Gathering will be held Aug. 11 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln East Campus Union. Dr. Frederick Kirschenmann, Director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University will be the keynote speaker. The focus is collectively facilitating sustainable agriculture.

The Center is taking nominations for the National Seventh Generation Research Award for farmers, ranchers, or research scientists who have performed outstanding sustainable and systems-oriented agriculture research. The nomination deadline is Aug. 31. Learn how to submit nominations on our Web site at www.cfra.org/award_application.htm or contact Kim Leval, kimleval@qwest.net or 541.687.1490.


EQIP Program Rules Released

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service unveiled the final rules and regulations that will dictate how the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) will be put into practice. The rule contains a number of disappointments, but two major ones will weaken the ability of small and mid-size farms to compete for a contract.

Although EQIP witnessed major legislative changes under the 2002 farm bill that favor large over small, some improvements stood to benefit small and medium-size farms and ranches. One in particular – the elimination of competitive bidding by applicants – would place smaller farms on an even playing field with larger, wealthier farms who have been awarded contracts solely because they offered to bid down their cost-share level.

In the final rule, NRCS continues to mischaracterize elimination of the bidding down provision. They contend that if the State Conservationist determines the environmental values for cost-share payments or incentive payments of two or more applications are comparable, the State Conservationist will not assign a higher priority to the application solely because it would present the least cost to the program. This is a clear strike against small and mid-size farms that typically employ more sustainable farming practices that cost less.

Secondly, ranking priorities that favor large, capital-intensive approaches over lower cost management-intensive approaches also work against smaller farms and ranches. NRCS created these priorities based on their assumption that EQIP can treat the waste from the largest number of animal units for the least cost by allowing funding for large facilities.

NRCS, however, believes that because they purposely fail to mention sizewithin the ranking criteria, they are not discriminating against small and medium farms. This severely limits the ability of the program to provide real environmental benefits through proven sustainable approaches. Contact: Traci Bruckner, tracib@cfra.org.


USDA’s Conservation Compliance Effort Flawed

On May 21, the U.S. General Accounting Office released a report entitled Agricultural Conservation: USDA Needs to Better Ensure Protection of Highly Erodible Cropland and Wetlands.

The report from the non-partisan agency examined USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s implementation of the 1985 Food Security Act’s provisions requiring federal farm program payment recipients to apply conservation practices. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) requested the report in response to concerns expressed around the country regarding continuing soil erosion and wetland conversions.

The GAO’s findings showed serious problems in the implementation of the 1985 farm bill’s provisions.

Nearly half (48 percent) of all Conservation Service field offices do not implement the conservation provisions as required. In selecting sample cropland tracts to test for proper implementation, the Conservation Service predominately chooses tracts such as permanent rangeland that have little chance of noncompliance.

Field offices often don’t check for violations, or if violations are discovered, don’t check to see if they are corrected. They have no automated system for recording the tracts or for submitting reports on them and maintaining a record of those reviews. Finally, when violations are actually sent to the Farm Service Agency, FSA regularly waives the noncompliance determinations without justification and continues payments to the violators.

In response to the many shortcomings within USDA, GAO offered a list of recommendations to better insure the law’s requirements are met.

  • Increase oversight of field offices’ compliance reviews to improve their accuracy and completeness.

  • Develop a more representative sample of tracts for review.

  • Develop an automated system to manage the data needed for reviews.

  • Ensure that noncompliance waivers are supported.

The report can be found on the General Accounting Office Web site, www.gao.gov, by clicking on “today’s reports” for May 21, 2003. The report is recorded as GAO-03-418. Contact: Brad Redlin, bradr@cfra.org.


Family Farm Pork Production Falls Dramatically

Farms with fewer than 5,000 sows now produce less than one-quarter of the nation’s pig crop – a dramatic decline from 1994 when such farms accounted for nearly three-fourths of the pig crop. There are lessons to be learned from that.

First, there is high price for inaction at critical junctures in history. The National Pork Producers Council and USDA both utterly failed to lead.

USDA had the authority to level the playing field for family hog production by enforcing the prohibition on price discrimination in the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act. It could have also redirected USDA research programs to focus on mid-size farms.

But neither Secretary Veneman nor her predecessor Dan Glickman had the will or courage to take the necessary steps. The U.S. House Agriculture Committee likewise refused to act on a packer-feeding ban. It is up to all of us to prevent similar inaction from exacting a comparable toll on the rest of agriculture.

Second, history may be on our side, but we don’t have forever. Most farmers, most rural people, and most Americans favor family farms. Nationwide, concern is growing with the excessive concentration of business, wealth, and power.

Throughout history, when people have decided they do not like the direction their nation is moving, they’ve changed it. We can do that too. But we cannot wait forever if there is to be enough left of family farming and rural communities to rebuild.

Third, the battle is never done. But it does shift to different fields. Commodity pork production has largely been taken from family farms, but there are bright opportunities in natural and specialty livestock.

We must build new cooperatives of small and mid-size farmers to reach the consumers willing to pay a premium for food raised in ways they support – in a more natural, humane, and environmentally responsible manner. We must intensify the fight for payment limitations, to retain our small and mid-size crop farmers.

And we must think beyond farming and ranching to create a broader set of opportunities for rural people to control their work and own the fruits of their labor through small business development and public policies that support it. – Chuck Hassebrook, chuckh@cfra.org


People First in Tupelo Model of Development

During the past several months we have looked at different models of community development and their strengths and weaknesses. These include such recognized efforts as Enterprise Facilitation, Economic Renewal, and Asset Based Community Development.

This month we’re focusing on the Tupelo Model, a successful economic and community development example. The Tupelo Model presumes that economic development cannot be achieved without community development.

From the case study Hand in Hand: Community and Economic Development in Tupelo, authors Vaughn Grisham and Rob Gurwitt describe the guiding principles of this model’s success.

Local people must address local problems. Each person should be treated as a resource. The goal of community development is to help people help themselves. Meet the needs of the whole community by starting with its poorest members as partners. Leadership is a prime ingredient. Community development must be done both locally and regionally. Never turn the community development process over to an agency that does not involve the people of the community. Expenditures for community development are an investment – not a subsidy.

The process can best be illustrated as a pyramid. The base of the process is human development. Much like the core of the Center’s community revitalization work, social capital is the target for the Tupelo Model.

Capital campaigns and industrial sites cost communities millions of dollars. According to the Tupelo Model, what makes more sense is to invest some time, money, and energy into people first before recruiting business. Broad ownership of the community’s economic development will have long-term rewards. Contact: Michael L. Holton, michaellh@cfra.org


New Homestead Act Introduced in House of Representatives

A companion bill to the New Homestead Act (S. 602) already introduced in the U.S. Senate, has now been introduced in the U.S. House. Sponsored by Rep. Tom Osborne (R-NE) and Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), the legislation (H.R. 2194) includes the same language as the earlier Senate bill.

The New Homestead Act specifically targets counties suffering significant population loss. It takes a development approach customized to rural communities rather than trying to transplant urban business incentive models to the country. The bill recognizes that individual entrepreneurship and microenterprise are the job creators for rural areas and provides appropriate provisions.

Sponsors of the Senate bill are Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Tom Daschle (D-SD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Zell Miller (D-GA), Conrad Burns (R-MT), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Mark Dayton (D-MN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and John Rockefeller (D-WV).


Corporate Farming Notes

An Indiana court order that took effect May 14 requires confined animal feeding operations that house 2,500 or more hogs in the state to begin applying for federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. The ruling forces the state to issue NPDES permits to make permitted CAFOs “federally enforceable” – meaning the Environmental Protection Agency could enforce the rules and citizens could file a lawsuit if they feel no one is addressing problems.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker’s ruling came from a 1999 lawsuit by the environmental group Save the Valley that claimed the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and EPA allowed CAFOs to violate the Clean Water Act by not requiring NPDES permits.

The Indiana Water Pollution Control Board developed rules requiring most of the state’s largest CAFOs to apply for a federal permit by mid-July and estimated about 500 operations would have to apply. Source: Feedstuffs

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced six appointments to the 15-member National Pork Board. Five of the appointees will serve 3-year terms and one will serve a 2-year term.

The six were chosen from among nine pork producers nominated by the National Pork Producers Delegate Body during its meeting in Dallas, Texas, in March.

The appointees are: David S. Culbertson, Geneseo, Ill.; Craig E. Christensen, Bouten, Iowa; A. Mark Reding, Howardstown, Ky.; Dianne L. Bettin, Truman, Minn.; Dennis O. Michael, Yankton, S.D.; and Wayne R. Peugh (2-year term), Edelstein, Ill. Source: USDA News Service

At a public forum organized by the Center for Rural Affairs, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, said that federal agriculture officials are “carrying water” for the meatpacking industry.

Grassley (R-IA) said officials with USDA have tried to muddy the issue to make rules for country-of-origin labeling more complicated for farmers and ranchers. Source: OWH, May 29, 2003

Contact: Brad Redlin, bradr@cfra.org for more information.


Nebraska Legislative Wrap-Up

The 2003 Nebraska Legislature faced the difficult task of overcoming a $759 million deficit. The two-year spending package they came up with includes $436 million in reductions, while the tax package is expected to raise $344.7 million in revenue for the state.

On the reduction side, lawmakers voted 37-11 to pass LB 407 and to override the Governor’s veto by the same margin. Education took a big hit. The University will have $29.7 million less than FY 2002-03. The public schools of the state saw their state aid reduced by $63 million over the biennium. The minimum tax levy for schools has been increased from $1.00 per $100 of valuation to $1.05 per $100 of valuation for FY 2003-04 and FY 2004-05.

Legislators voted 36-13 to pass LB 759, which is estimated to generate a total of $344.7 million in additional revenue for the state during the 2003-05 biennium to help close the state’s fiscal gap. The governor vetoed LB 759, but the veto was overridden by a 37-12 vote.

The existing state sales tax rate of 5.5 percent and the income tax rates enacted in 2002 will not sunset this fall, as originally proposed. They will remain in effect indefinitely. The state’s sales tax base is expanded to include recreational vehicle park charges, newspaper advertising supplements, detective services, animal specialty services, some remodeling construction labor, and repair labor. Contact Kim Preston, kimp@cfra.org

Read the complete article on our Web site: http://www.cfra.org/newsletter/current.htm


Producer vs. Farmer or Rancher: What’s in a Word?

Today the word producer is commonly used instead of farmer or rancher. To me, the word focuses too much on production or output. It likens farmers and ranchers to machines that spit out products but fails to consider the planning, managing, investments, and labor they contribute on their farm or ranch.

The term “producer” also hints that a farmer or rancher has no greater mission in life than to produce. It implies that the measure of their success is measured best by quantity rather than the quality they “produce.”

To me farmers and ranchers have much greater responsibilities than mere production goals. Goals are important, but they must be matched with the resources available and balanced to meet tomorrow’s needs while satisfying today’s demands.

When I think of a farmer or rancher I think of the land, the animals, and the lives of real people, not just products and production levels. – Martin Kleinschmit, 402.254.6893 or martink@cfra.org.


Zoning and Livestock Issues Tackled across Heartland

Large livestock operations wanting to locate in some Midwest states may be waiting until the cows come home. Legislation that would promote large facilities has been introduced in several agricultural states in the Midwest and is meeting local resistance.

The issue at the heart of the discussion is economic growth. Are counties in the Midwest trying to prevent economic opportunity by blocking the likes of Tyson and Smithfield? Opponents argue the root of rural economic woes is not in the lack of large livestock facilities but rather in current market conditions.

Local residents are also concerned about the environmental effects of such operations. Iowa proposed new emissions rules for hog confinements and Minnesota introduced legislation exempting small (less than 1,000 head) feedlots from the environmental review process.

Indiana considered the Environmental Protection Agency as the sole grantor of permits for large livestock facilities, allowing producers to eliminate paperwork and focus on implementing practices that meet the environmental requirements (see Corporate Farming Notes above for more on Indiana’s ruling).

After a successful block of Tyson’s plans to locate a large livestock facility in rural South Dakota, lawmakers introduced and passed legislation to limit voters’ say on siting animal feeding operations. Elections may be held on zoning rules, but residents would not be able to prevent the construction of a livestock facility. That decision would be left to local zoning officials and current zoning policies. An effort to refer this to a vote of the people is underway.

Nebraska faced a similar situation by trying to create “livestock friendly” counties. Local zoning boards are to be more accountable when making decisions on the future of livestock facilities in their counties.

Minnesota initiated the “livestock friendly” counties campaign. The factors include proof of support from county commissioners, certification that a

county’s land-use laws are “conducive to a viable animal agricultural sector,” and the lack of disqualifying factors such as moratoriums on the construction of new facilities.

An effort to repeal the law because no county has yet to enter the program was delayed by the Senate Agriculture Committee. Contact: Kim Preston, kimp@cfra.org


New Farm Bill Initiative Promises Real Rural Benefits

Partnerships and Cooperation under the Conservation Title of the 2002 farm bill is one of the bright spots that could provide some real benefits to farmers and ranchers and communities alike.

This initiative is designed to provide flexibility so that it can be easily applied at the local level, reflecting unique circumstances. The goal is to promote natural resource protection across multiple agricultural operations. It calls for farmers and ranchers to work together to realize cumulative benefits. In return, financial assistance will be provided to help make it happen.

One of the flexible elements of this initiative is that it allows the State Conservationist to draw down funds from any of the conservation programs to carry out designated special projects. This allows for innovative conservation planning rather than solely designing a plan to fit within a program. Contact Traci Bruckner, tracib@cfra.org

Read the complete article: http://www.cfra.org/newsletter/current.htm


Groundbreaking Held in Lyons, Neb. for New Center Office

The Center for Rural Affairs celebrated breaking ground on our new Lyons, Neb. office building on Friday, June 6, 2003.

Joining in the ceremony was our board of directors’ President Karen Tikalsky, Lyons Mayor Duane Slaughter, and State Senator Matt Connealy among others.

“Construction of a new building demonstrates that we are committed to our work for the long haul,” said Chuck Hassebrook, the Center’s Executive Director. “Rural America faces profound challenges. But if we are persistent we can create a better future for our communities, ourselves, and our children and grandchildren.”

The building’s completion is expected in January 2004. Contact Greg Finzen, gregf@cfra.org for more information about the building project. View progress on the new building on the Center’s Web site: http://www.cfra.org/center/lyons_building.htm


Center Yard Signs Still Available

Response has been great for our Center for Rural Affairs free yard signs. Just for the asking we will send you one or more of our heavy duty, vinyl-coated outdoor signs. They’re a great free way for you to show your support for rural America and for the Center.

These attractive, durable signs are lightweight and can be quickly mounted by folding them over any post or fence. To request a sign call 402.846.5428 or contact Brad Redlin, bradr@cfra.org.


Feature Article:

Swept Away: Chronic Hardship and Fresh Promise on the Rural Great Plains

A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away. Proverbs 13:23 (New International Version)

Swept Away: Chronic Hardship and Fresh Promise on the Rural Great Plains describes the economic conditions of agriculturally-based communities in the six-state region of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Swept Away examines data on population, income, job creation, and other demographic and economic indicators from 1990 to 2000 for counties of the six-state region. Though we examined data for all counties, our primary focus is on agriculturally-based counties and communities. Together, agriculturally-based counties comprise over 36 percent of the counties in this six-state region and about 7 percent of the region’s population.

The Findings: Chronic Hardship In general, we found that agriculturally-based counties of the region still significantly lag behind more urban areas of the region – higher rates of poverty, significantly lower amounts of income and earnings, and continued depopulation. Data was obtained from the Census Bureau and the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis.

What to Do: Fresh Promise The character of the region is based in entrepreneurial activity. Any rural development model must recognize that cookie-cutter policies and strategies that work in metropolitan areas have not and will not work in most rural communities.

The future of these communities holds abundant promise if a new rural development paradigm is developed. Such a new model will prevent the agriculturally-based communities of the region from being swept off the map in another 30 years. Then we can write a modern day Proverb – The field produces abundantly, and we value it justly. Read the full article: http://www.cfra.org/newsletter/current.htm

Contact: Jon Bailey, jonb@cfra.org for more information. Swept Away is available from the Center for $10.00 or may be downloaded from the Center’s Web site at www.cfra.org. The report was co-authored by Kim Preston.

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