The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on January 11, 1986 · Page 1
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 1

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Saturday, January 11, 1986
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ina T 1 \ Journal Home Edition — 25 Cents Salina, Kansas SATURDAY January 11,1986 114th year—No. 11 - 48 Pages Land Institute's Jackson brings special vision to farming By DENNIS FARNE Y Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal SALINA — Wes Jackson is an improbable revolutionary. He is a rumpled plant geneticist who appears, as one visitor observed, to have been dropped into his clothes from a great height. He fears he sounds like "an ecological Elmer Gantry." Yet he would like to turn American agriculture inside out. He is a leader of a growing movement called "alternative agriculture." And that movement is challenging the central principles that most farmers live by. Mr. Jackson, 49 years old, heads the Land Institute, a privately financed research farm along the Smoky Hill River here. His mind bounds along like a prairie jack rabbit — from soil erosion to Alfred North Whitehead to Shakespeare and, ultimately, to the audacious sweep of research here. "We're not just talking about a different cropping system," he says with a laugh. "We're out to save the world from sin and death.'' He is only half kidding. Alternative agriculture, with roots in the environmental movement, weds ecology to agronomy. Its advocates believe that farming as most farmers now practice it is ethically, environmentally and economically destructive — based on concepts that led inexorably to today's rural debt crisis. "Conventional agriculture wastes land and it wastes people," asserts Wendell Berry, an author who champions alternative agriculture while farming, with draft horses, a Kentucky hill farm. "What we're confronting is a failure, a way of farming that's manifestly destroying farmers." 'Industrial Agriculture' Conventional farming emphasizes high production and high tech: costly applications of fertilizers, herbicides and mechanization. The result, argue Mr. Jackson and Mr. Berry, is an "industrial agriculture" that erodes the soil, pollutes groundwater with chemical runoff and often bankrupts farmers in the process. Alternative agriculture, in contrast, stresses cost-cutting. Its tools are a battery of conservation practices, ranging from old-fashioned organic fanning to state-of-the-art hybridization. The Land Institute, out on the cutting edge of the movement, is attempting something that most geneticists consider impossible: the development of perennial grain crops that can eliminate costly annual replanting and eventually replace corn and wheat on many farms. That idea runs counter to just about everything taught for decades at state agricultural colleges — a sure sign, Mr. Jackson believes, that he is on to something. The alternative agriculture movement is still small. Its leaders claim only 20,000 to 40,000 of the nation's 2.3 million farmers. But it is rapidly institutionalizing. It has a headquarters, the Institute for Alternative Agriculture, in Greenbelt, Md. It has a magazine, the New Farm, and it is starting an academic journal this month. College Inroads It is also making inroads into the ag schools themselves. Charles A. Francis, a University of Nebraska agronomy professor, came to his post by way of the Rodale Research Center, a movement pioneer best known for its advocacy of organic farming. Although he is surrounded by corn, millions of acres of it, Mr. Francis is urging Nebraska farmers to diversify into other crops. Wes Jackson is a hero to him. "Wes is unique in every imaginable way," he says. "He's brilliant, he's messianic, he's so far out in front that a lot of people think he's not even on the same planet. But I have an awful lot of respect for the guy. Mainstream organizations are slowly moving in his direction." That trend has the potential to affect not just farmers but also the corporate giants that rest upon agriculture's sagging foundations. "My purpose," says Paula Bramel-Cox, a Kansas State University plant breeder who is working with the Land Institute to develop a winter- hardy sorghum, "is to put the chemical companies out of business." The idea appeals to Mr. Jackson, (See Land, Page 3) Pentagon cuts protect troops JANUARY SUNSHINE — Robert Ludden gets some help digging post holes Friday afternoon from his daughter, Bethany, 2. Scott Wllllomi WASHINGTON (AP) - President Reagan told Congress Friday the Pentagon will slash its operations, weapons-buying and research accounts rather than reduce personnel spending to comply with a new balanced-budget law. The president's decision was disclosed by White House spokesman Larry Speakes, and Pentagon sources subsequently agreed to elaborate on condition they not be identified by name. Edwin Dale, a spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget, said Reagan had exercised a special grant of flexibility that applies only to the current year's budget by deciding to protect $63.1 billion of the $67.9 billion authorized by Congress for military personnel. The Pentagon sources said the i president decided to do whatever was '•necessary to avoid cuts that would force reductions in the nation's troop strength. By leaving only $4.8 billion in the account unprotected, the Pentagon calculates it will face an actual reduction under Gramm-Rudman of roughly $245 million, the sources said. That is a small enough figure to allow the Defense Department to maintain its current strength of 2.1 million active-duty personnel and 1.1 million active reservists, the sources added. One source said the $245 million that will be sacrificed to the Gramm- Rudman deficit-reduction law will result in longer tours for a small number of individuals by reducing the budget for transfer and moving expenses. Some soldiers who are not re-enlisting might be released a month or two early, the source said, and there will be a small cut in funds for Reserve training programs. If the president had not acted to protect the personnel account, the Pentagon would have been forced under the law to slash an estimated $2 billion from the account. Such a cut would have forced a reduction in active-duty personnel, although the Pentagon has never said exactly how large that reduction might have been. By placing military personnel in a "hands-off" category, the president has assured substantially larger cuts will have to be made this year in the Pentagon's remaining major budget accounts — operations and maintenance; procurement, and research, the sources said. The Pentagon's fiscal 1986 budget authorizes spending of $289.5 billion. Of that amount, an estimated $259.4 billion would actually be paid out in fiscal 1986, with the remainder to be spent in future years. The Gramm- Rudman law will require a reduction of about $5.2 billion in actual Pentagon spending this year. Because so many of the Pentagon's weapons-buying programs are stretched out over several years, the Defense Department now will have to scrap or delay dozens of programs to reduce actual outlays by $5.2 billion. Gramm-Rudman seeks to eliminate the federal deficit by 1991, and provides for automatic budget cuts if Congress and Reagan don't meet deficit-reduction targets. The first big round of cuts is to take effect March 1. Today Inside SALINA IS ONE of several hotspots where winners of a state contest can spend a weekend. See story, Page 3. THE SPACE SHUTTLE again misses a scheduled liftoff, but NASA and the astronauts won't give up yet. See story, Page 5. SALINA CENTRAL never trailed Friday night as the Mustangs posted a 58-53 basketball decision over Salina South at the Bicentennial Center. See Sports, Page 13. Classified 18-20 Entertainment 22 Fun 21 Living Today 8 Local/Kansas 3,6 Markets 9,10 Nation/World 5 On the Record 11 Opinion 4 Religion 7 Sports 13-16 Weather 11 Weather KANSAS — Mostly sunny and unseasonably warm today, with highs in the mid- to upper 50s east and in the 60s west. Partly cloudy tonight, with lows in the 20s west and in the 30s east. Partly cloudy and cooler Sunday across the state, with highs in the mid-40s northwest to the lower 50s southeast. Farmers Union members agree U.S. agriculture seized by crisis By LINDA MOWERY-DENNING Great Plains Editor McPHERSON — Lee Swenson believes it will take more than improved commodity prices to solve the economic problems of agriculture. Because the value of land and other farm assets has fallen so dramatically in the past four years, Swenson says commercial banks and other lending institutions must consider a major restructuring of debt and interest buy-downs if they want to see their farm customers on solid financial footing. "We could raise (farm) income 30 to 40 percent and we'd still see many foreclosures," said Swenson, president, of the South Dakota Farmers Union. "We need to have a major debt restructuring and interest buy- down, along with an improvement in prices." Swenson participated in a panel discussion on the farm credit crisis Friday at the annual convention of the Kansas Farmers Union. The meeting at McPherson's Holiday Manor ends today. Panelists also included Kansas Attorney General Robert Stephan, who said the problems in agriculture extend beyond the country. "It's not happening just to farmers," he said. "It's happening to almost every economic sphere in this country.... This country is in trouble almost across the board. How good can the economic times be when this nation is a debtor nation for the first time since 1914? Nobody talks about that." Stephen's comments echoed those of Stan Ward, who spoke earlier in the day. "This is not a farm crisis; it's a rural crisis," said Ward, director of the Farmers Assistance, Counseling and Training Service (FACTS), a program established during the last session of the Kansas Legislature. Ward said Kansas State University has projected 5 to 7 percent of the farmers in Kansas will go out of business in the next year. In the next four to five years, that figure might (See Farmers, Page 11) '86 wheat planting smallest in 7 years WASHINGTON (AP) - Burdened by huge stockpiles and faced with new farm program acreage curbs, farmers planted an estimated 54 million acres of winter wheat last fall for harvest in 1986, the smallest planted acreage in seven years, the Agriculture Department said Friday. The planted acreage was down 6 percent from a year ago in the Great Plains, including a 7 percent reduction in Kansas, the leading producer; 5 percent in Oklahoma; and a 12 percent cutback in Nebraska, where winter wheat plantings were at a record low level. Texas plantings were unchanged. In Kansas, 11.5 million acres were planted in winter wheat. That's 93 percent of the 1985 crop planting. "I think that's definitely encouraging," said Carl Schwensen, executive vice president of the National Association of Wheat Growers. "It shows we're on the track toward adjusting our new- crop supply to the reduced demand that we've been experienc- (See Wheat, Page 11} Salina lawmakers set to perform budget-stretching act By JILL CASEY Staff Writer Salina's state-funded services likely will walk a tightrope through the 1986 Legislature, which is to convene Monday, as lawmakers try to allocate funds from a budget that is expected to be stretched thin. "The budget is going to be THE topic, from start to finish," said Sen. Ben Vidricksen, R- Salina. Salina's piece of the budget pie will be measured, in part, by funding to Kansas Board of Regents schools, which include Kansas Technical Institute, and to the Department of Transportation, which serves Salinans with two major highways, local legislators said Friday. "The bills dealing with funding will be very important to our area," said Rep. Jayne Ayl- ward, R-Salina. "The governor's 'bare bones' budget doesn't allow for much.'' Rep. Bob Ott, R-Salina, said one service, the Occupational Center of Central Kansas, faces recommended budget cuts that will seriously hamper its efforts to provide handicapped people with employment opportunities. . He said the four state mental hospitals, including Norton State Hospital, have requested increased allocations. But perhaps, he said, some of that funding should be channeled into other programs for the mentally handicapped, such as those provided by the Occupational Center of Central Kansas. Aylward, Ott and Rep. Larry Turnquist, D- SaUna, said they would like to see revamping of the school finance formula. Under the formula, they said, property taxes are relied on too heavily to provide funding for the Salina School District. They argue that the formula used to determine how much state aid is provided to school districts works against Salina because the town's industrial base is outside the district and local income is high. That means residential property taxes must provide too large a share, they say. Gov. John Carlin has proposed boosting the state sales tax from 3 percent to 4 percent to provide the state with added reveune. Part of that money would be used to fund education. But Ott said hiking the sales tax might be too drastic. Instead, he said, a tax on interstate telephone calls and catalog orders might bring in the needed revenue with fewer gripes. Carlin might have jumped the gun and overreacted to revenue shortages, Ott said, explaining that income tax revenue and the i- December sales tax figures are not yet in. Vidricksen predicted lawmakers will be asked to write legislation dealing with the rising cost of malpractice and liability insurance premiums. He also sees the economic development of Kansas as an issue. "There is a tremendous out-migration of people from Kansas schools," he said. "We don't have any jobs for them when they graduate, so we educate people for other states." First on his agenda for the session is getting the transient merchant's tax law repealed. Vidricksen earlier pre-filed a bill that would strike down the law, which requires out-of-state merchants to pay property taxes on their wares when they participate in Kansas trade shows. Vidricksen sees the law as a threat to trade shows.

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