Saturday, August 5, 2017

No more free riders on Minnesota's water quality

The University of Minnesota Alumni Magazine Summer 2017 has an article on WATER AS COMMON GROUND that begins and ends with statements I find extremely misleading. It opens with this sentence "Farmers have often been expected to bear the burden of mitigating agricultural runoff into Minnesota’s imperiled waters." The concluding paragraph mirrors the opening with the idea that:
Additional strategies are described in Ten Ways to Reduce Nitrogen Loads from Drained Cropland in the Midwest, a 2016 publication by the University of Illinois Extension to which Sands and other researchers contributed. “We recognize the complexity of why our agricultural systems look the way they do today, and we are working to reduce the environmental footprint of that system,” he says. “One of the biggest challenges we have to address is that improving water quality is for the common good, but there is an imbalance if society reaps the benefits of addressing this problem while the costs fall primarily on the backs of farmers.” [emphasis added]
I agree that water is a common ground. In fact, I believe that's one of the reasons that the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area annually spends about $250 million to collect and treat its wastewater. That includes debt service on the $924,140,000 Authorized Capital Program.

Minnesota streams pollutant levels
Swimmable, fishable, fixable? p. 11

That doesn't include any additional amounts spent by local units of government or private businesses to meet water quality requirements. In fact, the agricultural sector is the only element of life in America today that is exempt from meeting anything more than the most fundamental and basic water quality standards. As recently as two years ago, a statewide report found that

"Half of lakes and streams in southern Minnesota found too polluted for safe swimming, fishing

Pollution tied to farms will take decades to fix, state study finds. "
streams and rivers meeting aquatic recreation standards
Swimmable, fishable, fixable? p. 10

If anything, the imbalance in protecting our common water resources has been tilted in favor of protecting farmers from meeting basic stewardship responsibilities. That imbalance has been in place since before 1972 and it's well past time to correct it instead of buffering farms and farmers from their common responsibilities to protect our water resources. Meeting those responsibilities should be a prerequisite to qualifying for any sort of agricultural subsidy or crop insurance program. The farm bill being drafted should include such requirements.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

"Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" from The Country of Marriage, copyright ® 1973 by Wendell Berry

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