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- Problem~ in I l c A^r r 't r THE U S AGRICUUURAL SYSTEM has been beset by numerous economic and environmental problems in the l980s. In the economic sphere, with storage facilities filled with surplus crops, the cost of federal farm support programs skyrocketed from $3.5 billion in 1978 to a peak of $25.8 billion in 1986, falling to $22 billion in 1987 (U.S. Department of Agriculture, l98Sf). Financial stress hit tens of thousands of farmers and many rural communi- ties. Some farmers still find it difficult to pay debt accumulated during the prosperous 1970s. Many U.S. products are no longer competitive in world markets. From 1981 through 1986, the United States' agricultural trade surplus declined substantially. Although agricultural trade performance has improved since then, this has come at considerable expense to U.S. taxpay- ers. Competition among nations for worldwide markets is fierce and vola- tile. Agriculture is also causing serious environmental problems. Agriculture is the largest single nonpoint source of water pollutants, including sedi- ments, salts, fertilizers, pesticides, and manures. Nonpoint pollutants ac- count for an estimated 50 percent of all surface water pollution (Cheaters and Schierow, 1985; Myers et al., 1985~. Salinization of soils and irrigation water from irrigated agriculture is a growing problem in the arid West. In at least 26 states, some pesticides have found their way into groundwater as a result of normal agricultural practice. In California alone, 22 different pesticides have been detected in groundwater as a result of normal agricul- tural practices. Nitrate from agricultural sources (principally manures and synthetic fertilizers) is found in drinking water wells in levels above safety standards in many locations in several states. Agriculture presents other environmental problems. Major aquifers in California and the Great Plains have been depleted because withdrawals 89

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90 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE exceeded recharge rates. Cultivation of marginal lands has caused soil ero- sion. The use of certain pesticides on some crops and antibiotics in animal production for disease control and growth promotion presents risks that may be avoidable. Agricultural leaders and policymakers are currently confronting questions about contemporary production practices. These questions are the subject of this chapter. It is important to note that many problems discussed in this report are prevalent only in certain regions and under specific management practices. Almost ah of these problems can be overcome. Nonetheless, problems such as groundwater contamination wiD likely grow if current practices are continued. Many of these problems have developed in large part as a result of public policies and thus may be overcome through policy reform. The important link among all of these problems is that productive and profitable alterna- tive practices are available in most cases and are already implemented in some. The benefits of alternatives in addressing these problems are pre- sented in subsequent chapters. Publicly and privately funded agricultural research since World War II has created a wealth of technology and information. This information and tech- nology has led to vastly increased yields of a number of commodities and has reinforced movement toward specialization. High deficiency and disas- ter payments for most program crops reduced risks and further accelerated specialization. The development of specialized large farm equipment made it possible for individual farmers to grow one crop or a few related crops on more acres. Because of these trends, farmers were able to take advantage of market forces in the 1970s that stimulated demand for U.S. agricultural commodities. THE FARM ECONOMY In their desire to accelerate industrial growth, many developing countries neglected their agricultural sectors in the 1950s and 1960s. By the 1970s, a growing number of developing nations needed to import food to feed rap- idly growing populations. Many of them imported food from the United States. Growing trade with Pacific Rim nations and trade agreements with the Soviet Union further expanded available markets for the United States. The 1970s also brought generally favorable weather for agriculture to the United States and unfavorable conditions to many other countries. Tax policies such as accelerated depreciation and cap*al gains preferences en- couraged machinery purchases and cultivation and irrigation of previously uncultivated or erodible land. Crop prices were wed above the loan rate; expanded exports were used to offset the trade deficit created by oil im- ports. The result was greater demand for U.S. commodities, higher prices, and an all-out effort by U.S. farmers to increase production. Farmland prices followed the upward movement of commodity prices, inflation, and negative real interest rates. In some midwestern states, the

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PROBLEMS IN U.S. AGRICULTURE 175 150 125 100 Oh :5 75 o 50 25 91 Gross farm income _ I//////////// Production expenses /// 01~ 1970 1972 1974 1976 1978 1980 1982 1984 1986 YEAR FIGURE 2-1 Gross farm income and production expenses. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1988. 1988 Agricultural Chartbook. Agriculture Handbook No. 673. Washington, D.C. price of farmland increaser! by 15 percent or more per year. Rising land and commodity prices led farmers to increase purchases of inputs such as fertil- izers, seeds, chemicals, and equipment. Production expenses and gross farm income soared as farmers responded to a growing market (Figure 2-1~. Agricultural lending organizations, responding to inflation and rising mar- ket values of farm assets, were eager to make loans to farmers. Total farm debt went from $52.8 billion in 1970 to a peak of $206.5 billion in 1983 (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1987c). In late 1979, events began to change the economic, political, and social environment of agricultural production. Policy changes caused increases in real interest rates and the virtual end of inflation. Prices received for crops began to level off and drop although input prices continued to rise through 1984 (Figure 2-2~. Demand for U.S. agricultural commodities declined as a result of the increased value of the doDar; fixed loan rates; foreign compe- tition from the European Community (EC), Argentina, Australia, and Bra- zil; foreign debt; global recession; and reduction of U.S. loans to developing countries to buy food. Commodity surpluses around the world sweDed, and prices dropped. Falling commodity prices deflated land values, which fell by 1986 to less than half their 1980 value in many agricultural areas. In a few years, prosperity turned into economic recession. Many farmers borrowed heavily in the 1970s to invest in land and machinery and take

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92 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE 50 40 In o . _ Q 30 G In 5 20 o 10 o Prices paid for inputs ]~ ~ Prices received for crops. ~ ~~ qL U.S. agricultural exports ~ by, :..... ......... ............ .: ......... ~:~ 1976 1978 1980 1982 1984 1986 YEAR 175 - 1 50 `' a, Q G 125 Oh LL] 1 00 0 50 FIGURE 2-2 Input prices, crop prices, and agricultural exports. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1988. 1988 Agricultural Chartbook. Agriculture Handbook No. 673. Washington, D.C. advantage of high crop prices. The sudden change in the economic environ- ment placed those with the greatest debt in the most vulnerable position. The debt-to-asset ratio suddenly became a major criterion for a farm's viability. The financial plight of farmers also affected the farm credit sector. One- fourth of ah farm loans $33.7 billion from the Farmers Home Administra- tion (FmHA), federal land banks, production credit associations, commer- cial banks, and life insurance companies were nonperforming or delinquent in 1984 and 1985 (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1986a). The farm credit system lost $4.6 billion in 1985 and 1936. Agricultural banks accounted for more than half of 1985 bank failures, although they comprise only one- fourth of aD banks (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1986a). New rules to implement the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987, however, will help to keep tens of thousands of farmers on their land. The act requires the FmHA, the farmers' bank of last resort, to make aD feasible efforts to restructure loans, including forgiving debt. Up to $7 billion in debt and interest may be written off under this program. Suppliers of farm inputs have also been hurt by bad debt and federal supply-control programs that have reduced sales. Farm machinery sales, for example, fen more than 50 percent from 1980 to 1985. In Nebraska and lowa alone, hundreds of farm implement dealers have gone out of business since 1935. The industry has recovered somewhat since 1986 as farm income has risen. As of January 1, 198S, 4 percent of farms were technically insolvent be-

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PROBLEMS IN U.S. AGRICULTURE 93 cause debt exceeded assets. An additional 4.9 percent of farms had debt-to- asset ratios of 70 to 100 percent, and 10.0 percent had debt-to-asset ratios of 40 to 70 percent (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1988~. Farms with ratios above 70 percent generally experience serious financial problems. Those with debt-to-asset ratios of 40 to 70 percent face declining equity unless commodity prices are strong or production expenses fall, which they have since 1983. Although some farmers experienced financial hardship in the 1980s, many prospered. Total net farm income was $37.5 billion in 1986 and a record $46.3 billion in 1987 (see Figure 1-29~. Off-farm income totaled a record $44.7 billion in 1986 (Van Chantfort, 1987~. Table 2-1 shows that most farms had positive income in 1987, and that debt is now concentrated in farms with sales over $250,000. This recorc! income and reduction in debt was made possible, however, only by record levels of government support. In 1987, 44 percent of aD farmers had no long-term debt. The average debt-to-asset ratio, which reached 25 percent in 1985, fen to 22 percent in 1986 and 15 percent in 1987 (Figure 2-3~. Total farm debt fell from $206.5 billion in 1983 to $150 billion in 1988 (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1988a). Federal programs can have a great effect on the agricultural economy. In general, they are slow to alleviate the economic problems of farmers with the greatest need. This has been evident in the 1980s. WeD over one-half of all major commodity producers have been enrobed in the programs since 1983. But 60 percent of direct government payments in 1985, for example, went to only 14 percent of all operators with net cash incomes averaging nearly $130,000 (Agricultural Policy Working Group, 1988~. This is largely because federal payments are based on farm yields and sales. Even though Congress has limited certain categories of federal payments to $50,000 per farm, many growers have found ways to reorganize their operations to avoid this and other limitations. TRADE U.S. agriculture built a substantial trade surplus during the 1970s as the manufactured goods sector slipped into a deepening trade deficit. The U.S. agricultural trade balance deteriorated in the 1980s, however, falling from $27 billion in 1980 to $6 billion in 1986 (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1986b). The United States depends primarily on grain and oil seed exports; growth in this market is slowing as the U.S. share declined from 72 percent in 1979 and 1980 to 50 percent in 1986 (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1986b). The trade situation has improved since 1986; exports are expected to increase to about $33 billion in 1988, with the trade surplus rising to be- tween $12 billion and $13 billion. The U.S. agricultural trade balance has increased, in part because of a drop in market prices for most export com- modities. Government subsidies, credit guarantees, and product promotion

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94 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE TABLE 2-1 Farm Financial Conditions by Farm Size, Region, and Commodity Percentage of Farms in Each Financial Condition . Favorable Negative Marginal Vulnerable (Positive Income Income- Solvency- (Negative Income and Favorable Favorable Positive and Marginal Factor Solvency) Solvency Income Solvency) Farm size 2 $250,000 59 14 20 7 $40,000-249,999 64 12 17 6 < $40,000 71 19 6 4 Region - Northeast 68 22 7 3 Great Lakes 59 1 15 7 Com Belt 71 12 13 5 Northern Plains 64 17 15 5 Appalachia 76 16 5 3 Southeast 73 18 6 4 Delta 72 16 8 4 Southern Plains 69 20 8 4 Mountain 64 20 10 6 Pacific 67 18 9 7 Farm type Cash grain 65 14 14 7 Tobacco 78 9 8 5 Cotton 65 11 15 9 Vegetable, fruit, nut 71 16 9 3 Nursery-greenhouse 80 12 6 2 Other field crops 65 17 10 7 Beef, hog, sheep 70 20 7 3 Dairy 63 12 20 5 Poultry 73 6 16 6 Other livestock 58 30 5 7 NOTE: The income measure used in these statistics is net cash farm income; marginal solvency indicates a debt-asset ratio of 40 percent or more. Favorable solvency indicates a debt-asset ratio of 40 percent or less. Adding across, numbers may not total exactly to 100 percent because of rounding. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1988. Financial Characteristics of U.S. Farms, January 1, 1988. Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 551. Economic Research Service. Washington, D.C. also supported increased exports. The rise in export volume, however, far exceeded the increase in the value of exports in current doDars largely due to the declining value of the dollar (Figures 2-4 and 2-5) (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1987e). Meanwhile, the United States is increasing its imports of high-value prod- ucts such as processed foods and horticultural products. The United States accounts for about 10 percent of the value of world trade in high-value markets, primarily through exports of soybean meal, tobacco, cigarettes, cattle hides, and corn-gluten feed. Imports of supplementary high-vaTue commodities (crops also produced in the United States) have increased from

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Pfi by C) 111 20 95 / ' / ' o 1 970 Net cash income to total farm debt An. Farm debt-to-asset ratio - 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 ,1 1 1975 1980 1985 86 87 YEAR FIGURE 2-3 Farm debt-to-asset and net-cash-income-to-total-farm-debt ratio. Data exclude households. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1988. 1988 Agricultural Chartbook. Agriculture Handbook No. 673. Washington, D.C. 180 160 140 120 100 / ~ / - - - 80 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 977 -

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96 180 160 140 An LL i, 1 20 100 80 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE J - 1 , 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1977 1979 1981 1983 1985 1987 YEAR FIGURE 2-5 Value of U.S. agricultural exports. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1988. 1988 Agricultural Chartbook. Agriculture Handbook No. 673. Washington, D.C. 15[ in Cat . 10 ._ Q _ On J o C] o 1977 1979 1981 1983 Total Tobacco ~ ~ Other I. .;. \ ~ ~ Fruits, nuts, and vegetables / _ ///// ~//J//~ ITCH I 171 ~ Veins and beer Sugar lLLLLLL1 1 1 1 no! -~ YEAR 1985 1 987 FIGURE 2-6 Value of supplementary commodity imports. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1988. 1988 Agricultural Chartbook. Agriculture Handbook No. 673. Washington, D.~.

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PROBLEMS IN U.S. AGRICULTURE 80 LL] 6 ILI z ~ 60 llJ C.) () Z IL ~ lo 6 ~ 40 ~ O O ~ Q IL ~ O cD 20 o 97 1986 1 982 r ~. _ :-:. Fit . . ~ i, i-`,: ~ ~ . of' g`, '` `'4'3 `~ ,\ ~C, ~ l ~~- 2~'> ,\' ,\ Id, \,~',~, ,,3 a,\_ !~:,_`, ~ ',, ,,%~`, _~; c'`,%\C, ': 1 984 Am.- ~ . ,,- :-:-:~: '/ .22'' f :-:-:. '/ . .,..-. ~ :-:. ,, ~ of. ~e ~ ~ :-:- /, . a::-: ,, ; .-.-. ~ , ~ , .-.. ~ . . ,..-..., ~ al, ,,' ,,,'' ~,~,21 'age,,\ a.`, t1t2 ,',,'i ,',\;2i ,~,,,~, . United States European Canada Community COUNTRIES Japan FIGURE 2-7 Average producer subsidy equivalents for grains, livestock, dairy, oilseeds, and sugar. The European Community is Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and West Germany. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1988. 1988 Agricultural Chartbook. Agriculture Handbook No. 673. Washington, D.C. $7 billion in 1977 to almost $14 billion in 1987 (Figure 2-6~. The total value of agricultural imports reached $20 billion in 1987. Increasing competition is also contributing to the rising cost of federal agricultural subsidies. The government spent $25.S billion in 1986 and $22.0 billion in 1987 for price supports and related activities. Of this amount, $11.S billion in 1986 and $16.7 billion in 1987 were direct payments to farmers (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1988~. Nonetheless, U.S. agricul- tural subsidies as a percentage of producer income are far less than those of the EC, Canada, and Japan (Figure 2-7~. NATURAL RESOURCES The diversity in plant and animal products produced in the United States has increased in the past three decades, but individual farms have become more specialized. Technology has contributed to a shift from multi-enter- prise farming operations to those having as few as one or two income-

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98 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE generating crops or products. Recently, however, this trend of specialization has slowed down. Over the past decade, many farmers have adopted alter- native methods more consistent with the goals of profitability with less government support and greater natural resource and human health protec- tion. The following section is a brief review of the adverse consequences that some current agricultural practices have on natural resources and the envi- ronment. It must be emphasized that many conventional agricultural prac- tices are environmentally sound and are components of certain alternative strategies. The following analyses are not intended to be fully comprehen- sive; however, they do illustrate the factors that must be considered in any agricultural production system. Water Quality Surface Water Water pollution is probably the most damaging and widespread environ- mental effect of agricultural production. Agriculture is the largest nonpoint source of water pollution, which accounts for about half of all water poDu- tion (Cheaters and Schierow, 1985; Myers et al., 1985~. Under sections 304(f) and 305(b) of the Clean Water Act of 1972 as amended, 17 states and Puerto Rico identified agriculture as a primary or major nonpoint source of water pollution, and 27 states and the Virgin Islands identified it as a problem (Table 2-2) (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1984~. Surface water damage from agriculture is estimated at between $2 billion and $16 billion per year. These estimates are approximate, however, and may underesti- mate the long-term costs of pollution. Precipitation- and irrigation-induced runoff carries sediment, minerals, nutrients, and pesticides into rivers, streams, lakes, and estuaries. Most experts consider erosion's effects on water resources to be greater than its potential effects on productivity (National Research Council, 1986c; Schnei- der, 1986~. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) calculates that the economic cost of off-farm water pollution due to agricultural erosion is from two to eight times the value of erosion's effect on productivity (U.S. De- partment of Agriculture, 1987a). This comparison, however, is crude. Sediment deposition and nutrient loading are major agricultural water pollution problems (CIark et al., 1985; U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1987a). Agriculture accounts for more than 50 percent of suspended sedi- ments from ad sources discharged into surface waters (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1987a). In predominantly agricultural regions, these percent- ages are higher; in other regions, agriculture's contribution is less. Nation- wide trends in surface water sediment deposition between 1974 and 1981 were significantly related to cropland erosion within basins. They were not closely related to estimates of total basin erosion from forestIand, pasture- land, or rangeland (Smith et al., 1987~.

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PROBLEMS IN U.S. AGRICULTURE TABLE 2-2 Agriculture (Including Feedlots) as a Nonpoint Source of Water Pollution by State or Territory Agriculture Identified as a Primary or Major Nonevent Source of Water Pollution 99 Agriculture Identified as a Nonpoint Source Pollution Problem Delaware Montana Alabama Nevada Idaho North Dakota Arizona New~ersey Illinois Ohio Arkansas New Mexico Indiana Oregon California New York Iowa Puerto Rico Colorado North Carolina Kansas South Dakota Florida Oklahoma Kentucky Utah Georgia Pennsylvania Minnesota Vermont Hawaii South Carolina Mississippi Washington Louisiana Tennessee Maine Virgin Islands Maryland Virginia Michigan West Virginia Missouri Wisconsin Nebraska Wyoming - SOURCE: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1984. Report to Congress: Nonpoint Source Pollution in the U.S. Office of Water Program Operations, Water Planning Division. Washington, D.C. The principal consequence of sediment loading is increased turbidity, which causes decreased light for submerged aquatic vegetation. Species that depend on aquatic vegetation for breeding and food can thus experi- ence stress and decline. Sediment also has direct economic consequences when it fills reservoirs, clogs navigable waterways, reduces recreational use of waters, and increases operating costs of water-treatment facilities. Be- tween 675 million anct 1 billion tons of eroded agricultural soils are depos- ited in waterways each year (National Research Council, 1986c; Schneider, 1986; U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1986a). The USDA (l98Se) estimates that the removal from production of 30 minion to 40 minion acres of highly erodible land through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will reduce sediment delivery to surface waters by as much as 200 million tons per year. Phipps and Crosson (1986) and the USDA (1987a) estimate that between 50 and 70 percent of all nutrients reaching surface waters, principally nitro- gen and phosphorus, originate on agricultural land in the form of fertilizer or animal waste. Nitrate, which is relatively soluble, is carried in solution by water; phosphorus is most often carried attached to sediment. From 1974 to 1981, 116 stations from the National Stream Quality Accounting Network and the National Water Quality Surveillance System reported increasing nitrate concentrations; only 27 stations reported decreases. Ele- vated nitrogen levels were strongly associated with agricultural activity and atmospheric deposition of nitrogen in rainfall. Phosphorus deposition has been less consistently observed because increases are closely linked to levels of suspended sediments. Nitrate moves with water; thus, nitrogen move-

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1Z4 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE After heavy applications of pesticides over can cause severe damage in some crops, many years, Colorado potato beetles are now notably potatoes. Credit: Mycogen resistant to most registered insecticides and Corporation. In the early 1900s, for example, the major pests of cotton were the boll weevil and cotton leafworm (Nelson, 1962~. Since 1945 and the extensive use of toxaphene, DDT, methyl parathion, and other insecticides on cotton, the cotton bollworm, tobacco budworm, cotton aphid, and spider mite have become more serious pests than they were previously (National Research Council, 1975~. In particular, the cotton bollworm and tobacco budworm populations have grown because pesticides destroyed their natural enemies. In 197S, it was estimated that in; California 24 of the 25 top agricultural pests were secondary pests. The pesticides that wiped out their predators created or aggravated their role or dominance as pests (Van den Bosch, 1980~. More than 440 insect and mite species and more than 70 fungus species are now known to be resistant to some pesticides (National Research Coun- cil, 1986a). The committee expects that the problem will worsen. Pest pop- ulations already resistant to one or more pesticides generally develop resis- tance to other chemicals more rapidly, especially when the compounds work in the same way as previously used pesticides (National Research Council, 1986a). To counteract this, increased pesticide resistance in insect,

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PROBLEMS IN U.S. AGRICULTURE 125 mite, and fungus populations, larger doses and more frequent applications of the previously used pesticides become necessary. It often becomes nec- essary to combine pesticides or substitute a different type of pesticide to achieve control. In some cases, more expensive, toxic, or ecologically haz- ardous pesticides have to be used. This starts a cycle of shifting resistance and increased use of pesticides. For these reasons, increasing levels of pesticide resistance in pest populations have significant environmental and economic costs. Pesticides can also cause crop losses. This can occur when the usual dosages of pesticides are applied improperly; when herbicides drift from a treated crop to nearby, susceptible crops; when herbicide residues prevent chemical-sensitive crops from being planted in rotation or inhibit the growth of subsequent crops; and when excessive residues of pesticides accumulate on crops, causing the harvested products to be destroyed or devalued in the marketplace. Beetles have seriously damaged potato plants toxic than routinely used insecticides protects in the foreground, despite insecticide the healthy plants. Credit: Mycogen treatments. A new biological insecticide that Corporation. controls the Colorado potato beetle and is less

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126 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE Food Safety Many of the chemical agents introduced into the food supply, including pesticides, fertilizers, plant-growth regulators, and antibiotics can be harm- fu] to humans at high doses or after prolonged exposure at lower doses. Although cancer-causing chemicals have attracted the most concern, agri- cultural chemicals can also have behavioral effects, alter immune system function, cause allergic reactions, and affect the body in other ways. Concern about the adverse effects of synthetic chemical pesticides on human and animal health began in the 1950s when it was discovered that organochIorine pesticides such as DDT are very persistent in the environ- ment and can damage animal systems. In the following years, the use of pesticides increased dramatically, largely because of their affordability, ef- fectiveness, ability to cut labor costs, and a variety of economic incentives for higher yields. Pest resistance also led to more applications per growing season. Increased use placed a growing burden on regulatory agencies to ensure the safety and proper use of the compounds, and set the stage for subsequent dietary exposure and environmental problems. The two major problems facing policymakers attempting to regulate pes- ticides are the lack of data on the health hazards of pesticides and a lack of accurate exposure data. A National Research Council (NRC) panel esti- mated that data to conduct a complete assessment of health effects were publicly available for only 10 percent of the ingredients in pesticide prod- ucts, mainly because of a lack of testing of older, widely used pesticides (National Research Council, 1984~. Pesticide producers and the EPA held more confidential data at that time, however. And since 1984, more data have been generated on the chronic health effects of these compounds. To date, insecticides accounting for 30 percent, herbicides accounting for 50 percent, and fungicides accounting for 90 percent of aB agricultural use have been found to cause tumors in laboratory animals (National Research Council, 1987~. There is still much scientific debate, however, over the extrapolation of the results of these studies to adverse effects in humans. Lack of accurate human exposure data further complicates the problem. A recent NRC report found little data on the actual levels of pesticides present in the human diet (National Research Council, 1987~. Although residue studies are being conducted, a complete picture of residue patterns in the food supply is still lacking. Based on available data, pesticide residues in the average diet do not make a major contribution to the overall risk of cancer for humans (National Research Council, 1982, 1987~. The risk, however, may not be insignificant and in most cases can be substantially reduced. Fungicides pose a particu- larly difficult chronic health problem. They account for more estimated oncogenic risk than herbicides and insecticides combined, but few effective alternatives are available or under development (National Research Council, 1987~. Further complications in risk assessment are that fungicides are often used in combinations, and residues of several oncogenic fungicides and other pesticides are commonly detected on the same crop.

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PROBLEMS IN U.S. AGRICULTURE 127 Although little research has been done, there is evidence of synergistic interactions among pesticides and their contaminants with other com- pounds and with each other (DuBois, 1972; Knorr, 1975~. In 26 percent of 15 fruits and vegetables tested by the Florida Department of Agriculture, residues of two or more pesticides (including DDT, which was banned for agricultural use in 1972) were detected. This may understate actual residues, however, because the analytical method used cannot detect some com- pounds widely used on these crops. Although several pesticides are often present on a given food, pesticides continue to be regulated individually (Florida Department of Agriculture, 1988; Mott, 1984~. Organic fertilizers (manures and sewage sludge) and some inorganic fer- tilizers present health hazards if used inappropriately. These hazards in- clude increased nitrate levels in some foods and water, which pose a health problem when they are converted to nitrite through the action of bacteria and enzymes in the stomach. Nitrate can also be further metabolized during digestion to form nitrosamines, which are strongly carcinogenic. The poten- tial accumulation of nitrate in parts of some crops is generally greater when nitrogen is supplied in the synthetic chemical form because there is usually more nitrate available for uptake (Hodges and Scofield, 1983~. Nitrate percolation to groundwater and runoff from fields and feediots are major water contamination problems. Organic and inorganic fertilizers can cause these problems. Some sewage sludges, particularly those from industry, can contain high levels of heavy metals. These metals, which include cadmium, chromium, lead, and others, are toxic to most life forms and can accumulate in soil and in plant and animal tissues. The EPA has established guidelines for the agricultural application of sludges that con- tain heavy metals to avoid toxic accumulations in soil, forages, and vegeta- bles. Additionally, sludges that are not dried and/or completely composted can result in contamination of the soil with human pathogens (Maya, 1983; Poincelot, 1986; Vogtmann, 1978~. In addition, a wide variety of food-borne illnesses constitute a significant health problem in the United States. It is estimated that all types of food- borne illnesses are responsible for 33 million human illnesses and 9,000 human deaths in the United States each year (Young, 1987~. A significant percentage of these can be attributed to pathogenic bacteria of animal ori- gin. The bacterial pathogens listeria and saImonelIae, found in contami- natec! dairy products, and salmonelIae and campylobacter, found on some meat and poultry, have taken a significant disease toll in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control, bacteria from animal products account for approximately 53 percent of all outbreaks of food-borne illness for which a source was determined (Tauxe, 1986~. Antibiotics There has been scientific debate and concern about the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics in animal feed for nearly 20 years (Ahmed et al., 1984;

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128 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, 1981; Jukes, 1973; Ken- nedy, 1977; National Research Council, 1980~. The focus of concern is the frequent development of antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria as a consequence of antibiotic use in animals and in humans. Because many antibiotics used in animal feed are also used in human medicine, antibiotic- resistant pathogenic bacteria, particularly salmonellae, could develop and cause infections in animals and humans. The effectiveness of antibiotics for disease therapy would thus be diminished (Institute of Medicine, 1989; Murray, 1984~. Hirsch and Wigner (1978) demonstrated the transmission of resistant pathogens from animals to humans. This has been the subject of a thorough review (Feinman, 1984~. But there are still few studies that document the incidence of human disease caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens of animal origin. Disease in humans due to antibiotic-resistant salmoneliae of animal origin is difficult to confirm and appears to be rare. Holmerg et al. (1984), however, demonstrated that antibiotic-resistant salmoneHae caused disease in humans who consumed meat from animals harboring saimonel- lae. In a study of 542 human cases of salmoneHosis in 1979, 28 percent of the bacteria isolated were resistant to at least 1 antibiotic. Resistance to 2 or more antibiotics was found in 12 percent of the salmoneliae strains (Tauxe, 1986~. In addition to an apparent increase in the incidence of salmoneHosis in humans, there are data to show that antibiotic resistance in the bacteria in animal intestinal microflora can be transmitted to humans because the same antibiotic-resistant bacteria are found in the human intestinal tract (Institute of Medicine, 1989~. This increases the concern that antibiotic resistance in animal pathogens might spread from animals to humans. The risk that this transmission poses to human populations is a matter of intense scientific debate. Meanwhile, antibiotic use continues to increase. A recent report by an Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee assessed human health risks resulting from the subtherapeutic use of penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feeds (Institute of Medicine, 1989~. Although the IOM committee recognized that there is little direct evidence implicating subtherapeutic use of antimicrobials as a potential human health hazard, the committee found substantial indirect or circumstantial evidence indicat- ing a potential human health risk from subtherapeutic use of antibiotics in animal feeds. This evidence includes the following: The use of antimicrobials in a variety of closes generates a strong selec- tive pressure for the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria. Antimicrobial resistance among isolates of salmoneliae from farm ani- mals is prevalent because of extensive antimicrobial use on farms. Animal and poultry carcasses in meat-processing plants are often found to be contaminated with intestinal pathogens resistant to antimicrobials. Human infections from salmoneliae or other enteric bacteria may follow handling and ingestion of improperly cooked meat or food products from animals contaminated with these organisms.

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PROBLEMS IN U.S. AGRICULTURE 129 In assessing human health risk, the committee used a risk mode! that estimated the number of deaths from salmonellosis attributable to use of antimicrobials in animal feeds for prophylaxis and growth promotion and concluded that the likeliest estimate was in the range of 40 deaths per year (Institute of Medicine, 1989~. Further, it found that increased difficulty of treatment probably led to 20 additional deaths per year. The committee estimated that less than half of these deaths were from the use of antimicro- bials in growth promotion. It recognized, however, that the distinction between the use of these antimicrobials for growth promotion and prophy- laxis may not be great. The committee did not estimate incidences of mor- bidity because even fewer data were available. For the same reason, it did not estimate deaths due to other infectious organisms that cause food-borne illnesses and are known to develop resistance to the antimicrobials. The committee's conclusions suggested that reductions in subtherapeutic anti- biotic use would lessen the severity of human disease complications follow- ing infection with salmoneHae. Because data are limited, it is not possible to predict accurately the magnitude of public health gains that would result from a reduction of antimicrobial use in livestock agriculture. Human health concerns from antibiotic use go beyond bacterial resis- tance. Drug residues in food may also present risks. Many types of animal drugs are available to lay persons or farmers without the necessity of a veterinarian's prescription. Furthermore, it appears that even antibiotics limited to veterinary prescriptions are also widely available to lay persons (U.S. Congress, 1985~. An example of the inappropriate use of antibiotics is the use of chioramphenicol. Chioramphenico! was never approved for any use in food-producing animals; however, residues of chioramphenico! have been detected in animal food products (U.S. Congress, 1985~. The drug's sale in large containers, which was designed for the treatment of clogs, was banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1986 in an attempt to discourage the mixing of chioramphenicoT with animal feed (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 1986~. ChIoramphenicol nonetheless con- tinues to be used in food-producing animals. Recent surveys of milk in New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Pennsylvania found residues of chIoram- phenico! in 15 to 20 percent of the samples analyzed (Brady and Katz, 1988~. Its only FDA-approved use is for pet animals under veterinary care. University- and government-sponsored studies have found sulfametha- zine residues in meat and milk (Brady and Katz, 1988~. Sulfamethazine is available over the counter only in combination with other antibiotics, for use in swine and cattle. It is not aBowed for use in lactating dairy animals. Surveys of commercial milk, however, revealed that in certain parts of the country, greater than 50 percent of the samples had detectable sulfametha- zine residues. The human health hazard from these residues is not clear, although the compound may be carcinogenic in rodents (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 1988~. Further, approximately 3 percent of the human population is allergic to sulfamethazine and many other antimicrobial drugs that may contaminate food products (Bigby et al., 1986~. The FDA surveillance programs for the detection of violative residues of

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130 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE ah veterinary antibiotics and chemicals are limited. Field investigations into tissue residue violations have revealed areas where the FDA may need to concentrate its enforcement activities. Dairy cows culled from herds had the highest rate of violative residues, followed by Bob veal calves (calves slaughtered at less than 4 weeks of age). In addition, 18 percent of the violative tissue residues in meat were from intramammary medication. Of these residues, 85 percent were derived from gentamicin, a drug not ap- proved by the FDA for intramammary use and legally available only through veterinarians (Paige and Kent, 1987~. These problems point out the need to improve the effectiveness of the FDA's regulation of animal drugs. SUMMARY Many economic and environmental factors have converges! in the l980s to make alternative farming practices more appealing. Exports have declined since 1981. Although the situation is improving, sectors of the agricultural economy continue to experience hardships. Despite the fact that net farm income has reached record levels, federal programs support an unprece- dented percentage of total net farm income. Nonpoint surface water pollution and contamination of groundwater by agricultural chemicals are recognized as environmental problems. Soil ero- sion remains serious in certain regions. In subhumid and arid regions, irrigation practices continue to deplete aquifers and cause salinization of agricultural land and water. Antibiotic and pesticide residues in food pre- sent risks that, while difficult to quantify and evaluate, can be reduced through alternate management systems. The ecological effects of certain pesticides are considered to be significant in some regions, although they remain largely unstudied. In response to these factors, some farmers are beginning to implement a range of alternative practices. The scientific bases for the major components of alternative agricultural systems are presented in Chapter 3. REFERENCES Agricultural Policy Working Group. 1988. Decoupling: A New Direction in Global Farm Policy. Washington, D.C.: Agricultural Policy Working Group. Ahmed, A. K., S. Chasis, and B. McBarnette. 1984. Petition of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., to the Secretary of Health and Human Services requesting immediate suspension of approval of the subtherapeutic use of penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feeds. New York: Natural Resources Defense Council. American Farm Bureau Federation. 1988. Nine show pesticide exposure in health test. Mary- land Agriculture 19~4~:5. Bigby, M., S. lick, H. Jick, and K. Arndt. 1986. Drug-induced cutaneous reactions: A report from the Boston collaborative drug surveillance program on 15,438 consecutive inpatients, 1975 to 1982. Journal of the American Medical Association 256~24~:3358-3363. Brady, M. S., and S. E. Katz. 1988. Antibiotic/antimicrobial residues in milk. Journal of Food Protection 51~1~:8-11. Brown, A. W. A. 1978. Ecology of Pesticides. New York: Wiley.

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PROBLEMS IN U.S. AGRICULTURE 131 Chesters, G., and L. l. Schierow. 1985. A primer on nonpoint pollution. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 40:14-18. Clark, E. H., II, J. A. Haverkamp, and W. Chapman. 1985. Eroding Soils: The Off-Farm Impacts. Washington, D.C.: The Conservation Foundation. Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. 1981. Antibiotics in Animal Feeds. Report No. 88. Ames, Iowa: Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. Crosson, P. 1985. National Costs of Erosion on Productivity. Pp. 25~265 in Erosion and Soil Productivity: Proceedings of the National Symposium on Erosion and Soil Productivity. St. Joseph, Mich.: American Society of Agricultural Engineers. Davies, l. E. 1985. Health Effects of Global Pesticide Use. Miami, Fla.: World Resources Institute. Doran, J. W., D. G. Fraser, M. N. Culik, and W. C. Liebhardt. 1987. Influence of alternative and conventional agricultural management on soil microbial processes and nitrogen avail- ability. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture 2~3~:99-106. DuBois, K. D. 1972. Interaction of chemicals as a result of enzyme inhibition. Pp. 97-107 in Multiple Factors in the Causation of Environmentally Induced Disease, D. H. K. Lee and P. Kotin, eds. New York: Academic Press. Duvick, D. N. 1986. Plant breeding: Past achievements and expectations for the future. Economic Botany 40:289-297. Fehr, W. R., ed. 1984. Genetic Contributions to Yield Gains of Five Major Crop Plants. Special Publication No. 7. Madison, Wis.: Crop Science Society of America. Feinman, S. E. 1984. The transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to people and animals. Pp. 151-171 in Zoonoses, Vol. I, I. H. Steele and G. W. Beran, eds. CRC Handbook Series. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press. Florida Department of Agriculture. Residue Testing Laboratory. 1988. Data compiled from the 1986-1987 growing season, Florida Department of Agriculture, Tallahasse. Available from Environmental Health Research, Vero Beach, Fla. Glenn, S., and I. S. Angle. 1987. Atrazine and simazine to runoff from conventional and no- till corn watersheds. Pp. 273-280 in Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment. Amster- dam: Elsevier. Hallberg, G. R. 1987. Agricultural chemicals in groundwater: Extent and implications. Amer- ican Journal of Alternative Agriculture 2~1~:3-15. Hileman, B. 1988. The Great Lakes cleanup effort: Much progress, but persistent contami- nants remain a problem. Chemical and Engineering News, February 8, pp. 22-39. Hirsh, D. C., and N. Wigner. 1978. The effect of tetracycline upon the spread of bacterial resistance from calves to man. journal of Animal Science 46:1437. Hoar, S. K., A. Blair, F. F. Holmes, C. D. Boysen, R. l. Robel, R. Hoover, and J. F. Fraumeni, Jr. 1986. Agricultural herbicide use and risk of lymphomas and soft-tissue sarcoma. Journal of the American Medical Association 256~9~:1141-1147. Hoar, S. K., D. D. Weisenburger, P. A. Babbitt, R. C. Saal, K. P. Cantor, and A. Blair. 1988. A case-control study of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and agricultural factors in eastern Ne- braska. American Journal of Epidemiology 128~4~: 901. Hodges, R. D., and A. M. Scofield. 1983. Effect of agricultural practice on the health of plants and animals produced: A review. Pp. 3-33 in Environmentally Sound Agriculture: Se- lected Papers from the Fourth International Conference of the International Federation of Organic Movements, W. Lockeretz, ed. New York: Praeger. Holmberg, S. D., M. T. Osterholm, K. A. Senger, and M. L. Cohen. 1984. Drug-resistant salmonella from animals fed antimicrobials. New England journal of Medicine 311:617-622. Hoyt, G. D., and W. H. Hargrove. 1986. Legume cover crops for improving crop and soil management in the southern United States. Horticultural Science 21:397-402. Institute of Medicine. 1989. Human Health Risks with the Subtherapeutic Use of Penicillin or Tetracyclines in Animal Feed. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Jukes, T. 1973. Public health significance of feeding low levels of antibiotics to animals. Advanced Applications of Microbiology 16:1-30. Kahn, l. R., and W. M. Kemp. 1985. Economic losses associated with the degradation of an

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PROBLEMS IN U.S. AGRICULTURE 133 Moss, I. Schreiner, M. Shepard, T. Thompson, and B. Vinzant. 1980. Environmental and social costs of pesticides: A preliminary assessment. Oikos 34:127-140. Poincelot, R. 1986. Towards More Sustainable Agriculture. Westport, Conn.: AVI Publishing Co. Power, J. F. 1987. Legumes: Their potential role in agricultural production. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture 2~2~:69-73. Reganold, J. P., L. F. Elliott, and Y. L. Unger. 1987. Long-term effects of organic and conven- tional farming on soil erosion. Nature 330:370-372. Schneider, K. 1986. Erosion Is Called Small Threat to Crop Yields. The New York Times, 16 May 1986. Smith, l. S. C. 1988. Diversity of United States hybrid maize germplasm; Isozymic and chromatographic evidence. Crop Science 28:63-69. Smith, R. A., R. B. Alexander, and M. G. Wolman. 1987. Water-quality trends in the nation's rivers. Science 235:1607-1615. Tauxe, R. V. 1986. Antimicrobial resistance in human salmonellosis in the United States. Journal of Animal Science 62(Suppl. 3~:65-73. Troeh, F. R., l. A. Hobbs, and R. L. Donahue. 1980. Soil and Water Conservation for Produc- tivity and Environmental Protection. Englewood Cliffs, N.~.: Prentice-Hall. U.S. Congress, House. Committee on Government Operations. 1985. Human Food Safety and the Regulation of Animal Drugs. Union Calendar No. 274. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1986a. Agricultural ResourcesCropland, Water, and Con- servationSituation and Outlook Report. AR-4. Economic Research Service. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1986b. World AgricultureSituation and Outlook Report. WAS-45. Economic Research Service. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1987a. Agricultural ResourcesCropland, Water, and Con- servationSituation and Outlook Report. AR-8. Economic Research Service. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1987b. Agricultural ResourcesInputsSituation and Out- look Report. AR-5. Economic Research Service. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1987c. Economic Indicators of the Farm Sector: National Financial Summary. 1986 ECIFS 6-2. Economic Research Service. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1987d. U.S. Irrigation: Extent and Economic Importance. Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 523. Economic Research Service. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1987e. World AgricultureSituation and Outlook Report. WAS-49. Economic Research Service. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1988a. Agricultural Income and FinanceSituation and Outlook Report. AFO-31. Economic Research Service. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1988b. Agricultural Outlook. Special Reprint: Agricultural Chemicals and the Environment. Economic Research Service. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1988c. Agricultural ResourcesCropland, Water, and Con- servationSituation and Outlook Report. AR-12. Economic Research Service. Washing- ton, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1988d. Financial Characteristics of U.S. Farms, lanuary 1, 1988. Economic Research Service. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1988e. A National Program for Soil and Water Conservation: The 1988-97 Update. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1988f. Outlook '88 Charts: 64th Annual Agricultural Outlook Conference. Economic Research Service. Washington, D.C. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1984. Report to Congress: Nonpoint Source Pollution in the U.S. Washington, D.C. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1987. Alachlor; Notice of Intent to Cancel Registra- tions; Conclusion of Special Review. Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances. Washing- ton, D.C.

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134 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 1986. Chloramphenicol Oral Solution; Withdrawal of Approval of NADA's. Federal Register 51~8~:1441. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 1988. Proposed Removal of Regulation Regarding Sul- fonamide-Containing Drugs for Use in Food-Producing Animals. Federal Register 53(179):35,833-35,836. U.S. General Accounting Office. 1986a. Farm Finance: Financial Condition of American Ag- riculture as of December 31, 1985. Washington, D.C. U.S. General Accounting Office. 1986b. U.S. Agricultural Exports: Factors Affecting Compet- itiveness in World Markets. Washington, D.C. U.S. General Accounting Office. 1988. Farm Programs: An Overview of Price and Income Support, and Storage Programs. GAO/RCED-88-84BR. Washington, D.C. U.S. Office of Technology Assessment. 1987. Technologies to Maintain Biological Diversity. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. Van Chantfort, E. 1987. Farm financial profile details improvement, diversity. Farmline 8(11):4-7. Van den Bosch, R. 1980. The Pesticide Conspiracy. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books. Vogtmann, H. 1978. Ecologically sound preparation of farm yard manure and slurry. In Towards a Sustainable Agriculture, Proceedings of International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements Conference, J. M. Besson and H. Vogtmann, eds. Switzerland: IFOAM. Weisenburger, D. D. 1985. Lymphoid malignancies in Nebraska: A hypothesis. The Nebraska Medical Journal 70(8):300-305. Williams, W. M., P. W. Holden, D. W. Parsons, and M. N. Lorber. 1988. Pesticides in Ground Water Data Base: 1988 Interim Report. Office of Pesticide Programs. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Washington, D.C. Wnuk, M., R. Kelley, G. Breuer, and L. Johnson. 1987. Pesticides in Water Supplies Using Surface Water Sources. Iowa City, Iowa: Iowa Department of Natural Resources and University Hygienic Laboratory. Young, F. E. 1987. Food safety and the FDA's action plan, phase II. Food Technology (Nov.):116-124.