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From the Manure Editor: November-December 2016

Environmental witch hunt


 

I really enjoy a well-written opinion piece, especially one touching on a subject I’m interested in.

So, you can imagine my delight when I read Chloe Vosters’ article in the Oct. 11 issue of Wisconsin State Farmer entitled: “A Tale of Two Manure Spills …and a Loss of Credibility.” [If you haven’t had an opportunity to read it, give it a Google] Vosters – a dairy science student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls – plans to be the sixth generation of her family to farm and, based on her writing, is a very intelligent young lady. She was smart enough to quickly pick up on the dirty double standard present in some mainstream media – an animal manure spill is catastrophic news destined for the front-page while the release of raw human sewage is a yawner buried on page 4.

With deft skill, Vosters contrasted two articles – one covering the release of nearly 110 million gallons of raw sewage into rivers and lakes by the Milwaukee Metro Sewage District after a single rain event; the second a multi-day series investigating Wisconsin livestock operations, which have reportedly released about five million gallons of manure in the past seven years.

“As a young farmer with ambitions of my own, I am alarmed by the media’s double standard in the reporting exemplified by these two stories,” she stated in her opinion piece.

All of society should be. It’s not just occuring in Wisconsin. Recent coverage out of North Carolina following Hurricane Matthew has showed similar bias, helped in part by “exaggerated” reports from the environmental lobby. Pick up any daily newspaper in the days following the early October storm and you would be greeted by headlines such as “North Carolina’s Noxious Pig Farms” or “Exposing Fields of Filth” accompanied by aerial photos of flooded manure lagoons [handily supplied by the Waterkeeper Alliance].

Certainly, Hurricane Matthew spread destruction and flooding across eastern North Carolina farming operations. According to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, it flooded 14 manure lagoons, representing about 0.5 percent of the state’s permitted hog operations. But what the media and environmental lobbyists appear to be ignoring or glossing over is the fact that municipal wastewater plants spilled 62 million gallons of human sewage into rivers and streams following the hurricane. The Waterkeeper Alliance’s news releases saying nothing about municipal wastewater treatment plants.

“While people across North Carolina are working hard to protect lives and property, the Waterkeeper Alliance is exploiting this tragic situation to push their anti-farm agenda,” stated Deborah Johnson, CEO of the North Carolina Pork Council. “They remain focused on farms while ignoring the environmental impacts of spills from municipal waste systems and runoff from thousands of other sources.”

It would appear that old adage: “If it bleeds, it leads” has been replaced by: “If it’s animal manure, it’s a disaster. Human waste? Oh well.”