After decades of effort, the voluntary, collaborative approach to restoring the health and vitality of the Chesapeake Bay— the largest estuary in the United States—has not worked and, in fact, is failing. A diverse group of 57 senior scientists and policymakers have joined forces to save the Bay. This is our plan.

When Farmers Talk

(Posted by Roy Hoagland.)

When farmers talk, legislators listen. And when a farmer talks in support of new farming regulations, legislators really listen.

Two Maryland farmers recently told a committee of their state legislators that they wanted to see stricter and better controls on farms. In particular, they supported new proposals that included halting the spreading of manure on farm fields during the winter.

These two farmers are traditional farmers in every sense of the word: They graze their cows. They harvest their eggs from chicken coops. One of their farms dates from the 1700s.

This new breed of traditional farmers is a far cry from the corporate agribusinesses that support the American Farm Bureau Federation and lobby legislators. And they are speaking out for better management of farms and a better environment.

But when a farmer is not clothed in the garb of the organized farm lobby like the Farm Bureau, legislators can be dismissive. That is what one legislator sought to do when these two farmers spoke. They were not “feeding the nation” like other farmers, the legislator said. Yet these two farmers raise poultry and beef, eggs and vegetables, providing commercially available food for the public and restaurants.

They are part of the new breed of traditional farmers that is growing in America. A breed that argues for farming as we know it: farming that has a tie to the land and the community it inhabits, farming that looks to profitable outcomes as well as a healthier environment.

Let’s hope more of their voices are heard more often. And let’s hope legislators really listen.

Roy A. Hoagland, the principal/owner of HOPE Impacts, partners with nonprofits, foundations, and government agencies on Chesapeake Bay restoration matters. An environmental attorney, he is a former vice president for policy and advocacy with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

4 Responses to When Farmers Talk

  1. James Ehlers says:

    Great post, Mr. Hoagland. Please pass my thanks to these farmers for their courage. It will take individuals like them standing up in every watershed to end the political blame-game being played by elected officials and regulators across this country.

    Sincerely,
    James Ehlers
    Lake Champlain International

    • Roy Hoagland says:

      Thank you for your positive response. Unfortunately, the game is being played not only by the elected officials and regulators, but also by the organized agriculture lobby. In the Chesapeake Bay region, the American Farm Bureau Federation has filed a lawsuit against EPA, challenging its cleanup plan for Bay restoration. It has made the Bay cleanup and the associated need for pollution reduction from farming an issue on its national agenda for not only litigation efforts, but also Congressional efforts. Good luck with your work with Lake Champlain.

  2. Jan Morse says:

    Wonderful post, Roy! This is happening in Vermont, too? Farmers markets, CSAs….
    Jan

  3. April says:

    That game has been being played by industrial agriculture since CAFO’s first got rolling. It’s so good to see the American people want a return to our traditional sustainable farming roots. Its so sad to see taxpayers and a strapped us economy pay to clean up industrial agriculture’s pollution. The book “Animal Factory” gives great insight into the rise of industrial farm factories, the diseases and mutations caused by irresponsible management, the impact on communities, and the deep ties of the industrial agri-business to the FDA and USDA, as well as the incredible water pollution caused by irresponsible spreading and storage of untreated animal sewage that has killed rivers and fish and degraded our estuaries and the fishing/shellfish based economy from Indiana and California to Chesapeake Bay and North Carolina-a great informative read.