An “Udderly” Tragic Choice
A neighbor a few miles away from me recently sold off his entire herd of Holstein milking cows. Why would he do this? Were they diseased? Was he wanting to quit farming? Was the herd no longer profitable?
None of the above!
He sold them off because of a horrendous government decision that has made it impossible for him to continue operating a dairy farm. His family has been producing fresh milk on this farm for over five generations. For a number of years his milk was shipped and sold to Hershey Foods Corporation in Hershey, PA to be used in their chocolate manufacturing. It is very possible that many readers, who have eaten Hershey’s Chocolate over the years, have consumed some of the milk from his farm.
So, why would he sell off his chief source of income? He was forced to do so because of rulings by the USDA and the EPA concerning “manure management”! No, I’m not kidding. The federal government has mandated that all farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed must provide storage for cow manure for up to five months a year in what amount to large several thousand gallon manure storage tanks.
Here is the twisted logic. The government believes that spreading cow manure on fields in the winter time is polluting the environment. Since the ground is usually frozen then, the manure cannot be absorbed into the soil. The argument is that when the spring thaw occurs, much of the manure will just run off the surface and end up in streams. Since these streams eventually feed into the Susquehanna River, which itself feeds into the Chesapeake Bay, the manure will end up in the Bay and pollute the waters.
Given the Chesapeake Bay’s location close to Washington D.C., as you might imagine, it has become quite a political issue. Both the radical environmentalists and the wealthy sport fisherman in the greater D. C. area don’t want any problems with their “pristine waterway.” As a result, new regulations will be fully in force come 2014 to prohibit any dairy farms from operating anywhere in the Bay’s watershed that don’t have manure management systems in place.
For those not accustomed to rural farm life, let me take a moment to explain why this is so tragic and “udderly” unnecessary. First of all, farmers have been using natural organic cow manure for crop fertilizer for around 6,000 years! Manure returns nutrients into the soil to help next year’s crop grow well. By restricting the spreading of manure all year long, the amount used as fertilizer is greatly reduced. And, contrary to the government’s assertions, most manure is absorbed into the soil; even manure spread in winter months.
Second, this is actually more ecologically friendly because it reduces the need for chemical fertilizers which do indeed pollute waterways and eco-systems. Farmers would still need to use some chemical fertilizers, but in far less quantities. If my farmer friend continues crop farming, his chemical fertilizer usage will greatly increase now.
Third, this ruling only applies to the Chesapeake Bay watershed due to the politics involved. Pennsylvania’s two other main watersheds – the Delaware/Schuylkill rivers watershed and the Ohio River watershed are not so regulated. The Chesapeake Bay watershed is massive. It extends north into southern central New York State; encompasses much of the central portion of Pennsylvania, takes in almost all of Maryland, and includes most of Virginia east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This area affects thousands of dairy farms in these states.
Fourth, the cost for a “manure management” system averages around $500,000 per farm. It is true that there are government grant programs to defray the cost of installation, but in my neighbor’s case, given the physical topography of his farm, he would have had to install a dual system to meet the regulations. The second system would be entirely out of his own pocket; which was prohibitive financially for him.
Yes, you heard me right; the federal government has taken millions of our tax dollars to erect these “manure cesspools” on hundreds of farms across several states already! I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that Washington is a self-proclaimed expert on “bovine defecation”!!!
On top of the initial cost, there are additional on-going extra costs for farmers using this system that would be totally unnecessary. First, to store the manure means that a pump system must be installed to get the manure back out of the tank when it is “legal” to spread it on fields. This involves extra energy costs to power the pumps – electricity or diesel fuel. Second, since the manure ferments for months, it becomes mostly liquid. This means the farmer must go out and invest in a tank-type, liquid manure spreader which is far more expensive than the standard solids spreaders used for almost a century now.
Fifth, this move by the federal government is designed to damage the farm economy of this nation. There are literally millions of deer, tens of thousands of bears, and hundreds of millions of birds and smaller animals who live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. They all produce manure 365 days a year and all of it falls on the fields, in the woods (please forgive the old saying about bears and the woods!), and into the streams of the watershed. No one seems concerned about these manures polluting the Chesapeake Bay!
No, this isn’t about ecology. It’s about politics and economic sabotage in the pseudonym of “earth stewardship.” It is the socialist agenda foisted upon some of the hardest working people in America. It is the tyranny of the urbanite forcing his will on the very country folk who feed him.
It has also damaged rural home values as well. Fresh manure that is removed from dairy barns almost daily has far less of an odor than fermented manure that has been sitting in tanks for several months. Those even miles away are subjected to this new rural air pollution thanks to a lacking-reality government.
Finally, the thing that the government just doesn’t get is that rural folk have a keen awareness of environmental stewardship. We want to preserve nature for us and our progeny. Nature is our workshop. We want the soil, the water, and the air all to be fresh and productive for all the days of the future. Our land is our heritage – the heritage guaranteed to us by our Founding Fathers and the blood spilled by countless preservers of freedom over the centuries.
The apartment-dwelling environmentalists and the yacht club sportsmen have nothing to fear from the honest farmer who lives up stream. They need the milk, meat, grain, fruit and vegetables those farmers provide for them.
This “udder” tragedy must stop! If the number of farmers, like my neighbor, continues to shrink, we will all suffer greatly. A nation which can no longer feed itself is soon for destruction. Perhaps those in Washington should spend less time shoveling their “manure” and allow American’s farmers to efficiently shovel theirs!!!