Director’s column captures sentiments of agribusiness

I was delighted to see the Message from the Executive Director by David Bancroft, “Environmental movement must evolve” in the July-August Bay Journal. His sentiments are exactly those in farming and agribusiness that are sincerely trying to make changes to protect the environment.

Building walls and digging in to fight the fight doesn’t work as well as working together to find mutually acceptable solutions.

Bancroft acknowledges the hard work and success of the environmental community. I would also add that the agricultural community has made significant changes in its building designs, farming practices, and nutrient management planning and operations.

We applaud the Chesapeake Bay Program and its goals. Being better stewards of all of our resources should be in everyone’s business plan

James L. Adams
Executive vice president & chief operating officer
Wenger’s Feed Mill, Inc.

Does consensus-based cleanup have a chance at success?

The executive director of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, David Bancroft, pleads for more consensus-based solutions to solve the problems of the Bay in his Message from the Executive Director: “Environmental movement must evolve” in the July-August 2003 issue of the Bay Journal.

I presume he does not mean scientific consensus. Scientists have articulated the Bay’s major problem, nutrification or overfertilization, for more than a decade.

Scientific consensus exists on the causes of the problem. Two primary (local) sources of nitrate and phosphate are agriculture and municipal sewage treatment plants.

When do we expect consensus among farmers that must set aside buffer strips at least 100 feet wide along all waterways and use all best available management practices?

When do we expect consensus among citizens of municipalities that their wastewater bills must double to pay for tertiary treatment?

We have been trying to reach consensus for decades. It has not happened.

Politicians hide behind the “study it more” mantra in the hope that the public will believe they are actually doing something, cognizant of the power (and deep pockets) of the agricultural and municipal lobbies.

Scientists hide behind the same mantra because there is no end to knowledge, and funding is welcome.
But some problems, like this one, are so sufficiently clear-cut that further studies will not change the conclusion: Agriculture and municipal wastewater plants are primary sources of nitrate and phosphate pollution in the Bay and are the reason that the Chesapeake is formally listed as “impaired” by the EPA.

How long are we going to continue to talk and talk about consensus and avoid the hard choices and socioeconomic consequences?

If farmers and citizens of municipalities will not take voluntary action, by consensus, the time has come to either mandate (and pay for) the necessary changes in behavior or abandon all rhetoric about voluntarily cleaning up the Bay.

Dr. Lynton S. Land
Emeritus professor, Geological Services
University of Texas, Austin
& Northumberland Association for Progressive Stewardship