Farmers Are First-line Environmental Defenders

Nor' east Thinkin'

Environmental zealots' contributions pale compared to farmers' investments

Published on: June 25, 2011

 July's American Agriculturist issue will be in most mailboxes early this coming week – if they haven't already arrived. Inside, we've begun addressing the conflict of interest that drives non-profit environmental advocacy groups to thrive.

Unfortunately, these biases trickle all the way up to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Then it flows down to the farm and agribusinesses in the form of more regulations and more paperwork – and still more jobs to be funded by tax payers.

Environmental activists, such as those sitting in plush offices overlooking a Chesapeake Bay tributary, don't think farmers are doing enough to clean up the environment. But you only have to travel with one Soil and Water Conservation District employee for one day, to begin to understand how much agriculture is doing – on its own – to improve soil conservation and water quality.

Yesterday, we finished judging New York's 2011 Ag Environmental Management award candidates. (No, I'm not going to tell you who won yet.) We had seven outstanding candidates – all farms with an appreciation for soil conservation plus air and water quality far exceeding that of the average citizen.

Yes, these farms received cost-sharing help for part of their best management practices. But they've invested many thousands of dollars of their own money. In fact, cost-sharing is miniscule compared to the farmers' own financial contributions to clean water and air.

But as we discovered while researching July's editorial, no one is tracking the private dollars being quietly invested on close to 2.2 million farms and ranches in the 3,000 conservation districts across the country. No one is even tracking the death toll of farms destroyed by what may be excessive regulations and costs.

But America's farmers stand ready and willing to adopt any affordable measures. Why? Because they believe a clean, healthy environment is good for their businesses, their families, their communities and our country.

In the meantime, the more rabid elements of the environmental community foul the waters of its own pure intent. 

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