Daily News Archive
From February 22, 2001

Ag Extension Agent Fired After Defending Organics

According to Organic Gardening magazine, Virginia Tech agricultural extension agent Dennis Bishop was dismissed from his job following the publication of a letter that Mr. Bishop sent to the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star defending organic agriculture. His letter followed an anti-organic story that had recently run in the newspaper. Following Mr. Bishop's dismissal, the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star has been flooded with letters in his support.

Organic Gardening reported that Dennis Bishop's letter defended organic methods of agriculture as environmentally responsible, and made no mention of his position with the cooperative extension service. Despite a very positive performance review less than a month earlier, Mr. Bishop was handed his walking papers with no explanation 10 days after the newspaper printed his letter. The American Civil Liberties Union took his case.

"...the effect of chemical agriculture on our environment, and the relative desirability of chemical and organic methods of farming, are manifestly matters of public concern," stated an ACLU letter to Virginia Tech, which also notified the school that ACLU planned to sue the school for alleged abridgement of Mr. Bishop's First Amendment right to free speech.

Mr. Bishop's letter was written in response to an anti-organic column written by Dennis Avery, of the conservative Hudson Institute. Dennis Avery has a history of publicly bashing organic agriculture, most recently as an "expert" in a 20/20 news story by John Stossel. Mr. Stossel later apologized for the story that contained inaccurate information and fabricated test results.