There was some good news for a change for farmers and those involved in the local agricultural industry yesterday. This was celebrated by the advocacy group Save Farm Families in a release:
A federal judge in Baltimore, Md., has ruled against out-of-state environmental activists in a case against fourth generation family farmers brought by the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance, alleging their chicken farm violated the Clean Water Act. SaveFarmFamilies.org applauds the judge’s decision, and calls on Judge Nickerson to award legal costs to the Hudsons and to Perdue Farms, which was also named in the suit. In addition, the Assateague Coastal Trust, Waterkeeper Alliance, and the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic should publicly apologize to the Hudsons and to the Maryland taxpayers who unwillingly funded this wasteful lawsuit.
The Hudsons’ nightmare began three years ago when they acquired biosolids from the town of Ocean City for eventual use on their farm. Whether intentionally or not, the pile was originally placed in a position where its runoff washed into a waterway which flowed into the Pocomoke River and eventually to Chesapeake Bay. The matter was resolved by the Hudsons agreeing with the Maryland Department of the Environment to relocate the biosolid pile to a different location on their farm for usage prior to the next growing season; in addition, the Hudsons were assessed a $4,000 penalty which was overturned on appeal.
Enter the Waterkeepers’ Alliance, which with the other plaintiffs were basically pining for a fight and found the perfect scapegoat when they assumed the manure piled on the Hudson farm came from the chickens they grew for Perdue. It was Radical Green’s wet dream: an eeeeeeevil factory farm controlled by a large poultry producer willfully piling up chicken manure in order to spew pollution directly to Chesapeake Bay. If they didn’t know better, one would believe the raw chicken waste was being piped directly from the chicken houses to the Chesapeake to achieve maximum effect!
Needless to say, their narrative developed holes rather quickly when the pollution data from downstream was inconclusive to whether it came from the biosolid waste pile originally thought to be chicken manure. Undaunted, the Waterkeepers plodded on with the help of Maryland taxpayers. This was because the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic, in the name of giving its students “trial experience,” piled on to help the radical environmentalists. (The Hudson farm case is just one of several they’ve worked over the last few years.)
But the judge ruled in the Hudsons’ favor, and to press on further would be “money after bad money,” said Perdue Farms Chairman Jim Perdue. Even Governor Martin O’Malley, who rarely meets a Radical Green proposal he can’t embrace, called the lawsuit a possible misuse of state funds.
Given the deep pockets behind the Waterkeepers’ Alliance, though, I’ll bet they indeed appeal. They couldn’t care less about the Hudson family; to them these rural farmers are just collateral damage in their jihad against “mega-meat” producer Perdue, one of several meat processing companies that Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter calls “the biggest threat to family farming in the United States and around the world.” (Then again, she thinks the waste in question came from Perdue when, as it was conclusively shown, it was biosolids from Ocean City – so what does she know? The D.C. lobbyist may well have contributed to it if she vacationed here.)
And while Hauter snivels that agriculture is but a tiny part of Maryland’s GDP, she conveniently forgets that there are other industrial categories which depend on farm products to bolster their share. While she bashes these farms for what she considers an pollution problem outstripping their actual economic impact, she would do well to remember that urban sewage plant malfunctions are far more of a Bay problem than agricultural runoff ever dreamed of being.
The trouble with all these Radical Green groups is that they seem to believe the food which is placed on their table just magically appears at their local market. Yet a prudent farmer knows how and when to fertilize his crops and to do so releases some amount of pollutants to the watershed. I jokingly say it “smells like Delaware” during those early spring months I drive by a freshly ripe farm field but I realize it’s a small price to pay for the harvest which feeds us, whether directly through corn-, wheat-, or soy-based foodstuffs or indirectly through the chicken most of us enjoy a couple times a week. The Radical Greenies seem to think the Whole Foods store fairy creates the food they eat, but that’s not how those of us who enjoy life happen to live.
So best of luck to the Hudsons. They’ve won this battle, but I fear the war isn’t over for them – or for the rest of us.