Governor’s Answer- Via the Secretary of Ag

by

Agricultural Secretary Earl F. Hance

4/22/11

Dear Mr. Secretary,

Thank you for your prompt response to my letter to the Governor. I attended a meeting in Denton a year ago called because the Choptank River had just been designated as the most polluted River in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. At the meeting a scientist who has been monitoring Choptank subwatersheds for 30 years pointed out that 80% of Choptank nutrient pollution came from farm fields. A representative of Industrial Agriculture cited the many actions taken by farmers cited in your letter.  A scientist with the Wye Agro Ecology Center presented a study, which attempted to shift the responsibility to septic systems. An obviously confused member of the audience asked. Why are we here if so much has been done? Industrial Agriculture though widely initially supported in academia nationwide has turned out to be a conceptual failure fast losing support. The overconsumption of meat, sugar and processed food the products of the system are now recognized as the primary driver of our Nations poor health.

History is loaded with conceptual failures. Look at the history of the automobile and the history of flight and space travel. Usually when a conceptual failure occurs it is soon apparent. Not so with Industrial Agriculture and Food Production. It has taken more than a half-century to recognize the full extent. The environmental issues including the loss of half the nations topsoil and the nutrient contamination of most rivers, the Gulf and other Estuaries including Chesapeake Bay were apparent by the eighties but the massive health issues including the dietary dominance of CAFO red meat as the primary risk factor in cancer and heart disease are just now becoming apparent.  Just this week a study of CAFO supermarket meat Nationwide including Washington DC revealed that 50% of the meat was contaminated on the outside with Staph bacteria and half of that was resistant to more than three of the antibiotics necessary to treat infection. The National media did not pick up this story only Reuters and Daily Finance. Compared to the enormity of this nationwide health and environmental calamity the national media pays little attention.

It takes 14 times more land to denude the earth’s surface to plant corn, feed the corn to animals in CAFOs rather than eating the much healthier plant food directly. This is the basic conceptual flaw but we have exasperated the problem by taking short cuts in soil management, overuse of fertilizer, overuse of carcinogens in the production process and the basically flawed CAFO process of raising animals in their own feces described by Johns Hopkins as perfect pathogen incubators. You cite 400,000 acres planted in cover crops. Farmers did this at taxpayer expense.  Many acres are not covered in clear violation of sound soil management practice. Most of the proposed BMPs such as building manure storage sheds or housekeeping pads are proposed at taxpayer expense. How much should taxpayers pay to correct a basically flawed system?

I urge you to do a comparative cost study of the Industrial system considering the cost of the environmental and health issues and compare that to a combination of organic vegetables and pasture raised meat. I believe the result would be surprising. I do agree that Maryland farmers are in a competitive situation and cannot unilaterally take action and be competitive. I also agree that farmers in other areas of the Country particularly the great Midwest are doing less than Maryland. But Maryland farmers have an added burden of protecting the Chesapeake Bay and this they are not doing.  You should be saying to the EPA. We will cut fertilizer applications in half. We will require a minimal 3 crop rotation plus winter cover. We will treat all CAFO manure. We will do this but only if it is done on a National basis. All the research required to understand the full picture is available on our website fixingourfood.com. It is time for everyone including consumers to be aware and take action.

Sincerely,

Ps. Please suggest to the Governor that he also visit sustainable organic and pasture farms on his next visit to the Eastern Shore.

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