Monday, October 5, 2015

Subsidizing water pollution

I've done absolutely no research on this. I'll put that on my "To Do" list. It's all George Monbiot's fault. He has a piece in the guardian about "Think dairy farming is benign? Our rivers tell a different story."

farm field, southwestern Minnesota, Spring
farm field, southwestern Minnesota, Spring
Photo by J. Harrington

You may remember that Des Moines' water works is suing three county drainage districts over nitrate-laden agricultural runoff. Southwest Minnesota, where the dominant land use is agriculture, has practically no surface water that meets water quality standards. Minnesota is responding with a stricter approach to implementation of current buffer requirements. Farmers and their representatives claim that voluntary approaches are adequate to get the job done. Enforcement would be too complicated.

It was the following Monbiot observation about a recent farmers protest in Brussels:
"When other protesters expound their views this way, they are beaten up by the police, excoriated by the press and rewarded with accommodation in state facilities. In this case however, the European commission gave them €500m (£370m) to go away and not restructure their industry. This comes on top of the €55bn that farmers receive every year through the common agricultural policy."

Minnesota corn field, late Summer
Minnesota corn field, late Summer
Photo by J. Harrington

that prompted me to think (again?) about the need for and desirability of linking water quality and soil conservation plans to eligibility for US Department of Agriculture farm subsidies and/or crop insurance. Why should the American public subsidize farms and farmers to pollute the commons. I'm not suggesting (yet) that farm subsidies be eliminated, only that responsible, proper management plans be in place and followed to qualify agriculture for governmental largesse.

Thanks, George. Feel free to use this concept in England and the EU. I'm making it available for free under a Creative Commons license.
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The River Now

By Richard Hugo 

Hardly a ghost left to talk with. The slavs moved on
or changed their names to something green. Greeks gave up   
old dishes and slid into repose. Runs of salmon thin   
and thin until a ripple in October might mean carp.
Huge mills bang and smoke. Day hangs thick with commerce
and my favorite home, always overgrown with roses,   
collapsed like moral advice. Tugs still pound against   
the outtide pour but real, running on some definite fuel.   
I can’t dream anything, not some lovely woman   
murdered in a shack, not saw mills going broke,
not even wild wine and a landslide though I knew both well.   
The blood still begs direction home. This river points   
the way north to the blood, the blue stars certain   
in their swing, their fix. I pass the backwash where   
the cattails still lean north, familiar grebes pop up,   
the windchill is the same. And it comes back with the odor   
of the river, some way I know the lonely sources   
of despair break down from too much love. No matter   
how this water fragments in the reeds, it rejoins   
the river and the bright bay north receives it all,   
new salmon on their way to open ocean,   
the easy tub returned.


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