(Posted by Michael R. Helfrich.)
Many of you have probably heard about the Farm Bureau suing to block the Chesapeake TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) and WIP (Watershed Implementation Plan) cleanup plans. This lobbying group has no understanding of what it means to live in community, where everyone’s actions affect everyone else. They are willing to destroy the Bay economy, supposedly to save agriculture around the Chesapeake Watershed. But why do they never go after the real problem?
The real problem is that the value of our food crops has not kept up with the rest of the economy. I have a diary from a farmer from 1918, who kept track of the prices he got for his goods: dozen ears of corn, 45 cents; dozen eggs, 25 cents; pound of butter, 45 cents. Today the price for corn is about $3, or 7 times what it was 93 years ago; a dozen eggs, $2 or 8 times; and butter about $4 or 9 times. Meanwhile, Americans pay $3.20 for gas that was about 8 cents in 1918. We drive cars that cost at least $20,000, compared to the $500 you had to pay then. We go to movies that used to cost a nickel for the whole afternoon (where we get the term nickelodeon), and now pay over $10. For these luxuries we are willing to pay 40 times higher for gas, 40 times higher for a car, and 200 times more for a movie, but not even 10 times higher for our food!!! And I don’t want hear from any economists giving me mumbo-jumbo. I’m comparing apples with apples, or should I say, corn with corn, and gasoline with gasoline. How can anyone wonder that farmers say they can’t afford improvements that would reduce their pollution? Or, that the younger generation doesn’t want to farm, or that older farmers sell off their farms to development so they can retire? Where’s the respect for the people that keep us alive? We should be thanking them by paying more for our food, not by claiming we need cheap food while splurging on luxuries; and not by letting the Farm Bureau represent big ag, treating farming like a WalMart instead of a sacred calling from God to serve their fellow man and woman.
Giving farmers respect doesn’t mean we don’t need farmers to improve their practices. We can’t restore the Susquehanna and Chesapeake without changes in how we all live our lives. This means we, as individuals, reducing or eliminating fertilizers on our lawns, and trying to keep stormwater on our properties; wastewater plants upgrading to treat the pollution that we all make every day; industries changing their practices to reduce pollution, including nitrogen and phosphorus; and, of course, agriculture, the biggest source of pollution to the Susquehanna and Chesapeake Bay, using only the fertilizers they need and not using their fields for manure waste disposal, not farming to the edge of streams, leaving buffers to absorb excess fertilizer and pesticides, stopping the use of excess antibiotics that compromise human health, and not letting the Farm Bureau lie to Congress and the public about efforts to improve our communities for everyone.
Please check out this video that “60 Minutes” did on the Farm Bureau back in 2000. While some policies may have changed since this exposé, the 2011 legislative priorities of the Farm Bureau should concern everyone who recognizes our interconnectedness with our environment. In other words, without a healthy environment, we can’t guarantee that the lives of our children will be as good as, or better than, our own. Isn’t that what every one of us wants? The Farm Bureau wants to block any efforts to recognize that ALL WATERS ARE CONNECTED, either through surface, groundwater, or through the air (evaporation and rain). It’s shocking to learn that they are not about sustaining healthy farms, soils, and communities, but are really about: big ag business, factory farming, using polluted sludge on farm fields, and reaping profits today without regard for those that have to live off of the same soil, air, and water, FOR ALL FUTURE GENERATIONS. They only support the weakest of bills concerning climate change, bills that continue to encourage the rapid consumption of fossil fuels because they are the cheapest. While they are supporting Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and Synagro, we continue to see the decline of the family farm! It’s time to hold them accountable! If you want to save family farms, find one, buy your food from them, and pay them more than they ask. The farmers will soon be able to afford improvements; you’ll be getting better food for your money; and you’ll be creating community, the only thing that is going to get us beyond “personal rights” to pollute our common resources. This is going to be more and more important as our population continues to grow, in the Susquehanna Watershed, the Chesapeake Watershed, and across the global community.