Archive for July, 2010

2012 Farm Bill

July 25, 2010

July 24 2010

Dear Mr. Abrams, (Assistant to Congressman Kratovil)

Thankyou for your call about genetically modified seed. I hope that you have had an opportunity to visit our website and blog. I know the far-reaching consequences of our food system are complex and not easily fixed but as a member of the House Agriculture Committee the Congressman is in a position to bring about desperately needed change. As Vaclav Smil pointed out, what started as a shortage of manure sourced nitrogen was quickly satisfied by an overabundance of nitrate production during and following World War II. As shown on our reference graph43 for the Choptank River, nitrogen application increased 8-9 times beginning in the 50’s as pasture was eliminated. As the graph shows the results were catastrophic for Choptank water species. The same nitrogen increase and catastrophic result occurred Nationwide as the 2000 Gulf of Mexico Study31 shows. This powerful scientific report recommended a reduction in nitrogen application for the Mississippi watershed which encompasses more than 40% of the US land area but it was rejected due to pressure from powerful agricultural interests. Since 2000 the medical and public health community realized that corn based products both meat and processed food, are unhealthy and the cause of our increasing obesity and diabetes epidemics. The good news is that both the environmental and health issues can be solved by producing and consuming healthy food. Your committee must stop subsidizing high nitrogen need corn and high fat animal and high sugar/fat based processed food and start subsidizing locally produced vegetables and pasture based meat products. You should be supporting low chemical usage in all production. You should make it less cumbersome to qualify for the organic label, which has now been extended to dairy products. The label requires that these animals eat a minimum amount of grass, which produces a leaner animal, and which requires less nitrogen-based corn and less manure clean up. All confinement house manure must be processed.

We are fortunate to have 2 grass-based farms within 40 miles. Neither St Brigids in Kennedyville nor C&J farm in Seaford grow corn or use chemicals and they receive no subsidy while growing healthy food. Current government policy encourages the production of unhealthy food grown using large amounts of environmentally destructive chemicals and without controls on animal manure all of which is overwhelming aquifers and surface water and destroying water species. Congressman Kratovil is in a unique  position to change all of this in the 2012 Farm Bill and we wish him luck.


Proposed State of MD.TMDL Plan

July 20, 2010

Once the TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) is established for each segment, the MDE should send out a questionnaire to each and every landowner in the segment asking them   the following:

1. Verify the total property size in acres?


1. How much nitrogen fertilizer have you applied in each of the last 3 years?

2. How much phosphorous fertilizer have you applied each of the last 3 years?

3. How much manure have you applied to your land each of the last 3 years?

4. Animal CAFO,s- How many facilities and the number of animals processed yearly in each? Describe how the manure is currently managed?


1. How much of your land was tilled using a single crop rotation each of the last 3 years?

2. How much of your land was tilled using a 2 crop rotation each of the last 3 years?

3.How much of your land was tilled using 3 or more crops in yearly rotation?

4. How many acres of cover crops were planted each of the last 3 years?

5. How much of your land was in grass or pasture each of the last 3 years?


1. How many septic systems  on the property and how many people use each?

The MDE will assign a maximum for each landowner for each of the pollutants based on the simple premise that a reduction in application will result in a lessening of intrusion into aquifers and surface water roughly equal to the reduction in application. The administration of sediment is based on the USDA research on the relationship between the percentage of live roots in the ground and crop rotation. (See Table 11.1 pg. 118 In USDA Sustainable Soils Management) A two crop corn and soybean rotation is rated at 32% while a pasture or lawn is rated at 100%.

The landowner can meet the established requirement either by reducing the application amount of a particular pollutant or by changing a portion of the property to a less intrusive farming system. A particularly effective way to reduce nutrient and sediment is to add pasture or forage to the rotation as suggested by Iowa State University researchers and research farmers.

Open Letter to J. Perdue

July 16, 2010

Dear Mr Perdue,

This week we are doing an orientation for a student at the University of North Carolina who is interning at Trappe Landing Farm & Native Sanctuary. Our website references are the focus of this briefing. In reviewing the PBS documentary Poisoned Water and the other references relating to the role that Industrial chicken plays in the destruction of Chesapeake Bay it occurred to me that you are personally in a position to do more for Bay water quality than any person on the earth today. I would appreciate your following along with me in this review on our website.

Lets start with the nutrient balance post at the top right of the blog page. The EPA nutrient load maps show two distinct corridors of intense nutrient pollution. The hog and dairy corridor is centered in a remote area of PA and the chicken corridor which runs from Lancaster PA. down the Delmarva Peninsula. This is an area dominated by corn production and chicken CAFOs that drive the demand for field corn production. USGS has determined in Circular 1228 that the overuse of fertilizer on corn is 59% of Delmarva nitrogen pollution and that manure from CAFOs is 35%. All of the corn grown on Delmarva is used by chicken CAFOs. So how can you personally effect changes in production methods as the largest Eastern producer of CAFO chicken?

1. As references under water quality show field corn has the highest nitrogen need of all the cereal grain crops and at .37 has the lowest uptake efficiency. In a drought year the uptake efficiency approaches zero, which makes even more applied nitrogen available to leach into aquifers. If your feed experts were to develop a feed mix reducing the amount of corn and replacing with small grains including, oats, wheat, barley and alfalpha you could reduce the amount of corn production and applied nitrogen by as much as 50%. This would address the largest contamination source. This mix has been developed and previously sent to your offices. The mix is designed to maintain nutrient values similar to current mixes and has been used by pasture farmers without compromising growth time or quality of the birds. While this action on a large scale would reduce nutrient pollution it would also promote crop diversity or number of crops in yearly rotation and greatly improve soil erosion and sedimentation of all Delmarva streams and rivers.

2. The second recommendation is a result of once again reviewing Poisoned Water. Watching the farmers clean out the chicken houses with front end loaders to move the manure to storage or to manure spreaders suggest a much more efficient method. Current methods involve substantial double handling which is not only expensive but the cause of  spillage and air contamination. As MDE research44 shows this spillage is causing aquifer readings under these sites to be as high as 200 times the normal nitrate background level for Delmarva aquifers. You had a very tough time during your PBS interview in denying your ownership of the manure. In fact you did not deny it. You said that the farmer wanted the manure for his fields. He may want the nitrogen but I am sure he is not happy with the level of phosphorous, antibiotics, heavy metals including arsenic currently contaminating his fields and underlying aquifers. Why not develop a vacuum based manure pickup and trucking system and cleanup your manure when you pick up your chickens every 8 weeks. There are now commercial processes, which convert manure to energy and clean organic fertilizer which are said to be economically neutral.

The fact is that without reducing corn or improving efficiency of corn production, which is possible but expensive, and without cleaning up chicken manure, water quality on the Delmarva Peninsula cannot be restored. Judging by the load maps the Delmarva chicken corridor is at least half of the nutrient and sediment source for the Chesapeake Bay. The Perdue Company has always been the leader in its industry. It is time once again to show that leadership by taking these suggested actions or others equally effective.


Donald R. Kerstetter

Posted to web blog on 7/16/10

The Formidable Enemy Within

July 7, 2010

The Washington Post reports the latest on obesity “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future. But this is only a part of the destruction caused by America’s failed food production system.

The United States has faced many formidable enemies since its inception including, the British during the Revolution, internal insurrection during the civil war, foreign fascism during world war II, and Communism during the cold war. We have prevailed in all of these conflicts. But after World War II an agricultural and food production system evolved based on the availability of cheap oil based chemical fertilizer and pesticides to produce field corn, which is the raw material for high fat, high sugar content processed food and high fat animal products. These products are cheap due to shortcuts taken during production, misguided government subsidy policy, and lack of government oversight. This unhealthy food dominates the super markets and increasingly causes obesity and diabetes among adults and children.

But the loss of our most important natural resources is even more devastating to the Countries future. Past enemies have been relatively easy to identify. This enemy is 60 years old and the majority of people still do not connect the dots necessary to recognize the seriousness of the threat. Will the Country survive this increasing threat? Perhaps but only if the great majority of people recognize the severity of the threat and change to eating healthy food and insist that their representatives change their subsidy spending habits and initiate reasonable agricultural controls. These controls must include controls on soil and water management which have been recommended by USDA, USGS, EPA and other government agencies for decades (see our references for details)

National Academies Weigh In

July 5, 2010

New Recommendations in reports of the Academies of Medicine, Science, and Engineering will help in the fight to save our National health and natural resources??

Quotes from the reports:
U.S. farmers are under pressure to satisfy multiple demands, such as to produce more crops, pollute less, and save our natural resources. To evolve farming systems that meet all of these demands, national agricultural policy, research programs, and food markets need to shift away from emphasizing low costs and high production exclusively and develop a more holistic perspective of how farms provide benefits to society.

These systems might depart significantly from the present-day mainstream of agricultural production in the United States, and would require new thinking about farming practices and the natural environment, food markets, and communities in which they are embedded. Multidisciplinary research on aspects of these novel farm systems would be needed.

Progress on some aspects of sustainability requires moving beyond the field- or farm-level and has to be addressed at the landscape level. For example, managing nutrient runoff from agriculture involves addressing the collective actions of multiple farms in a watershed. New research suggests that the distribution of farm types and activities across whole landscapes could be better designed to achieve improved sustainability on local and regional scales.

I did not see anything new in the National Academy of Sciences statement of the issues nor its recommended approach to change that hasn’t been stated by the USDA Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education Program or other sustainable advocates for the last 30 years. The power of agribusiness over, local, State and Federal agencies and their political leadership responsible for safeguarding national health and natural resources and agribusiness control over mainstream University Research departments at the management level along with public ignorance and apathy has brought us perilously close to irreversible damage to our health and natural resources. Perhaps the weighing in of the broader scientific community will give impetus to needed change in direction.


July 1, 2010

Nutritionist Walter Willett states that there is a consensus among nutritionists that America’s obesity and diabetes epidemics is caused by an excess of corn based processed food and corn fed red meat. He also was asked his opinion by the Washington Post on Americas decreasing longevity based on the National Cancer Institute’s study of red meat consumption. Fred Kirchenmann and his fellow scientists at Iowa State University state that there is a need for basic change in industrial agriculture. They propose crop rotations which include pasture and forages and result in substantially less corn and chemical application and much less exposure to erosion. CBF’s restoration scientists who are restoring historic Antietam Creek propose changing corn based CAFO dairy farms to pasture based dairy farms. Three of the oldest agriculture organizations in the Country representing 11,000 scientist and students published Grasslands-the future of sustainable agriculture. Almost a year ago the Wall Street Journal in an opinion titled The Fat of the Land wrote “call the 19% of Kids who are obese in America the children of corn”. They now follow up with a solution opinion titled “Ordering Up Beef That Roamed the Range”. The article reports on a taste test of prime cuts of beef from 5 ranches in the SW, Midwest, and Western US. All tasters agreed that the meat was less greasy and more tasteful than supermarket beef. They also point out that healthful grass fed beef is only 3% of beef sales in the US. If readers have any interest in restoring water quality, stopping massive erosion and improving their health they should only buy grass fed meat. All 5 of these ranchers sell product by mail. We buy pasture-raised veal and beef from St Brigids in Kennedyville MD and beef, pasture raised eggs and chicken from C&J in Seaford DE. These pasture-based grass fed producers can be reached as follows:
Baldwin Grass Fed Beef (800) 896-4857 Hearst Ranch(866) 547-2624 La Cense Beef (866) 442-2333 Ridge Run Longhorn Ranch (575) 666-2697 Alderspring Ranch
St. Brigids (410) 648 5753

C&J Seaford DE. (302) 629-8194