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September 14, 2000   Email to Friend 

September 14, 2000

As part of ongoing efforts to address drinking water pollution in the state, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System will target 30 small farms operators in three geographic locations of Alabama with educational programming aimed at reducing the risks of pollution.

Targeted geographic areas include west central Alabama and the Sand Mountain/Lake Guntersville area. Farmers in Jefferson County also will be included.

"Small-scale farmers comprise the lifeblood of Alabama vegetable farming," said Dr. Jesse LaPrade, the Extension environmental specialist who coordinates the program. "However, problems occur when chemical residues associated with these farming practices, such as herbicides, pesticides, fertilizer and manure, wash into nearby surface water."

The primary goal of the program, known as Farm-A-Syst, is to educate small-scale producers (especially minority producers) about ways they can identify and deal with these problems in order to reduce the threat of drinking-water contamination. The training, which has been offered in Alabama since 1993, is being revised to include the most up-to-date approaches to pollution education. USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service and the National Partnership in Washington, D.C., provide crucial support for the program.

The program will test three delivery systems to address water pollution: a third of the targeted farmers will work directly with Extension personnel, while the remaining two-thirds either will work with Extension-trained environmental volunteers or through a self-help approach. The results of these tests will enable LaPrade and other Extension experts to gauge which delivery method is most effective.

"One of the program's key goals will be helping farmers understand what they can do personally to reduce pollution," LaPrade says. "In some cases, this may be as simple as properly maintaining septic tanks, choosing effective pesticides and controlling pests without using pesticides."

An added advantage of the program is the savings some producers will derive in operating costs in addition to improving the quality of their drinking water. Youth and adults will be recruited as volunteers for this program.

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