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U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers are developing a profile of the American diet by asking 6,000 people in 20 states what they eat. It's part of a 1994 to 1996 survey.

The last three-year survey, 1989 to 1991, showed that Americans got 34 percent of their calories from fat, down from 36 percent in 1987-88 and 40 percent in 1977-78. Nutritionists recommend diets in which no more than 30 percent of calories come from fat. The last survey also found that only half of Americans ate fruit or drank fruit juice on any given day. The recommendation is two to four servings daily.

A committee of prominent physicians and nutritionists, citing numerous scientific studies, is urging the USDA to replace its food guidelines with guidelines anchored in plant-based foods. It also would relegate meat, dairy and oil-based foods to 'optional' status for daily use. The recommendations came from the Washington-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Most New York dairy farmers have accepted bovine somatotropin (BST or BGH) as commercially beneficial, but some have modified its use.

Applied to the right cows under good management conditions, the milk production stimulant increases a cow's milk output and extends its life, dairymen say. But in the year that BST has been available commercially, some producers have been learning to use it selectively.

"You can't give it to a thin cow; she's producing all she can," said one Wyoming County dairy farmer. "Monsanto has raised the price from $5 to $5.80 for a dose that lasts two weeks. You can still make money if BST increases output by 15 pounds, but not if there's only a five-pound increase."

The New York Farmers Union, following the lead of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, which has opposed BST from the start, is still fighting it. The New York Farmers Union contends that a dairy farmer in Lisbon, St. Lawrence County, and some in Texas, Florida and Washington who have used BST have encountered herd health problems and production declines. Some who ceased using BST during hot weather have begun using it again.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration rejected requests to suspend BST sales even though it had received 806 reports of "adverse reactions" in a survey of 13,000 BST-using farms. The FDA said it found no unusual health problems among BST-injected cows.

New York corn growers in March received $11,763,179 in 1994 corn deficiency payments, a small part of the $1.4 billion that the USDA paid to the nation's corn and grain sorghum growers. The payments were made under an amended 1949 law. Congress is considering changing that law.

Deficiency payments represent the difference between the previously set target prices and the averaged five-month market prices farmers received. Farmers were paid 22.75 cents per bushel. Percounty totals: Allegany' $154,546; Cattaraugus, $308,848; Chautauqua, $165,272; Erie, $219,699; Genesee, $652,729; Livingston, $856,840; Niagara, $602,423; Orleans, $654,756; Steuben, $286,594, and Wyoming, $472,973.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard T. McGuire, who was appointed by former Gov. Mario Cuomo and retained by Gov. Pataki, has been honored by the Biotechnology Industry Organization as the nation's "outstanding state agriculture commissioner." The organization represents 570 biotechnology firms, universities and other biological study centers in 47 states and 20 countries.

McGuire, a former dairy farmer, was recognized for his efforts to educate ihe public about the benefits of incorporating new technology into farming.

Barnyard gossip - Respected researchers at Washington liniversity and California's Lawrence Livermore Laboratory claim to have shown a link between high concentrations of nitrates in Califomia's Central Valley drinking water and the practice of blending nitrate fertilizers with ground water. Nitrate-laden water harms young people. This is why controlling non-point source pollution is becoming a concern. . . . Grazing efficiency and forage management continue to be a prime topic for livestock farmers. On April 10, Cattaraugus County will host a Grazing Conference at its Ellicottville Cooperative Extension Center. Growers in most other Westem New York counties were invited to a similar meeting. . . . In 1994, Southern catfish producers raised 439 million pounds of the I freshwater fish on 155,415 pond acres. Production, which dropped in 1994, is expected to climb in 1995.

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