In ”Assessing the State of Chesapeake Bay Agriculture, 2005” (www.cbf.org), CBF president Baker claimed that “…farmers are managing commercial fertilizer more efficiently and substituting manure for commercial fertilizers, a smart move if manure is applied based on careful soil testing.” I objected to this false and unquantified assertion in a letter dated 11/25/05 (CBF1.pdf). Jeff Corbin (subsequently assistant to the VA Secretary of Natural Resources, L. Preston Bryant, Jr. and now head of EPA&rsuo;s Chesapeake Bay Program, replacing Chuck Fox) responded on 12/09/05 (CBFR.pdf). CBF takes the pro-agriculture position of EPA and the Chesapeake Executive Council. “Importing chemical fertilizers ”…would certainly increase “…the operating costs of farming.” but why would transportation and air pollution problems be worsened? Trucks transporting fertilizer pollute as much as trucks transporting animal waste. The image of “mom-and-pop” farms resonates with the public, but most farming today is agribusiness, based on the economics of scale and a very few individuals farm most of the land. At least CBF recognizes that in the best of circumstances, “… farming is an inherently ‘leaky’ system..” CBF’s goal should be to fix the leaks. I disagree vehemently that their position on the land-application of animal waste (including municipal sewage sludge) is “…what is best for Chesapeake Bay.” CBF’s position may be best for CBF’s bottom line, Perdue Farms Incorporated’s bottom line and a very few farmers’ bottom line, but it is not best for the Bay.
CBF lauded improvements in Virginia’s poultry waste regulations in the winter 2010 “Save the Bay” magazine, stating that the changes “… will ensure that poultry litter transported off regulated poultry farms to “end-users” is stored and land-applied in a manner that promotes healthy crops and clean water.” They are wrong. The regulations still allow nitrogen-based land application, which guarantees phosphorus will be over-applied. The only regulation that ensures there will be no negative impact on crop productivity and protects water quality as much as possible is one that requires soil analysis and limits nutrient application to the amounts needed by the crop. No scientific reason exists to do otherwise, and anything else is just a license to dispose of animal waste as cheaply as possible to the benefit of special interests, something that CBF should not sanction.
CBF needs to focus on the “B” and not on the “F.” Citizens must not assume that just because they contribute to CBF or the Sierra Club they have done their part. They have not. Politicians usually respond to the will of the people when there is a true groundswell of public outrage that might compromise their electability. Surrogates like CBF are too “Light Green” to borrow a phrase from Howard Ernst’s new book “Fight for the Bay.” Their efforts are ineffective in the face of lobbying and campaign contributions from special interests.