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If You Like Good Food, You’ll Like ATTRA

May 18, 2011

GAYS MILLS, Wis. - Organic and sustainable farmers are worried about losing one of their best resources if funds for a key information source are slashed.

Wisconsin farmers rely on Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) every day for information and help they can't get anywhere else - but ATTRA's $3 million budget is on the federal chopping block. Cutting funds would be a big mistake, says Harriet Behar, an organic specialist with the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service.

"This whole local-food movement, I think, could never have even happened without ATTRA, because ATTRA was the one that has helped a lot of these smaller people get bigger, and the new people who want to come into farming get into it because ATTRA was there with all this information."

More than 6 million sustainable-agriculture bulletins were downloaded from the ATTRA website last year. For those without computers, ATTRA provides a toll-free number - 800-346-9140 - to answer questions and get customized advice. U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., chairs the subcommittee that decides agricultural funding.

ATTRA helps farmers bring innovation to their production systems, Behar says, resulting in improved efficiency and better economic returns. The small price tag for the ATTRA program pays benefits not just to farmers, she says.

"For anyone who's even just a consumer and wants to eat really good food, I can just about guarantee that just about everybody that you talk to at the farmer's market selling vegetables has learned something from an ATTRA publication."

Another valuable program Behar says might be cut is the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE), which provides farmers with practical production techniques that are environmentally friendly and economically sound. Behar says both ATTRA and SARE are crucial to continued growth in sustainable agriculture in Wisconsin.

The ATTRA website is at attra.ncat.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI