Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Economics above all...

I have noted that the EPA-AFBF battle seldom centers on the actual pollution numbers. Or effects from it.  It is all about farmers making money. This is apparently the winning strategy farm organizations and their allied business partners intend to use going forward.

This isn't an important story simply because of the groundwater issue, however. It's true that it would be a landmark decision if the new regulations limiting runoff were to stand. What makes it important is the nature of the two sides' arguments. On the one side, you have environmentalists detailing the hazard to the health of humans as well as wildlife. On the other, you have "more than a dozen growers of rice, hay, grain and other crops in the Sacramento Valley" declaring that they are "'adamantly opposed' to a requirement for electronic reports on their discharges. 'Being a small diversified farmer has become increasingly difficult with regulatory burdens exploding over these last few years.'"That's what they call a non-denial denial. There is clearly not a dispute over the underlying facts -- the farm groups didn't even bother denying them. This is the increasingly universal strategy of Big Ag -- reduce safety or environmental issues to an attack on the viability of agriculture, facts be damned. They suggest that we have to accept -- if we want our cheap, mass-produced food -- that there will be collateral damage, in this case to the idea of clean water. It appears to be of little concern that much of the Central Valley population is made up of low-income Latino farmworkers.Of course, this issue isn't limited to California's Central Valley. The struggle over runoff is playing out across the country, from the Chesapeake Bay to the Midwest to the Gulf states. And with anti-regulatory fervor, along with food prices, on the rise, Big Ag's desire to be free from "regulatory burdens" may be that much closer to reality. [More]

This strategy will pay off perhaps in the short run, but as the problem persists seems to ne to be untenable longer term. It follows the theme of climate change arguments as well: "It's too expensive to fix (even if it did exist)".

And it should be said, we will clearly discover which threats have been overblown, and which are not a big deal this way. Curious science, but the high stakes will make it interesting.

The other half of this strategy obviously is to enact tort reform, just in case doing nothing is a really bad idea.


Anonymous said...


Two must-reads:

'Basic' conservation compliance is a joke. Get that right, and MAYBE your industry can avoid further regulation? Not gonna happem IMHO.

Keith said...

We tend to trust NRCS a great deal more than EPA. Would be worthwhile to check the Limnotech report on the Cheasepeake Bay TMDL. EPA (and some other agencies, such as FWS and NMFS) assume that were operating in the late '80s, especially with regards to conservation tillage.

derek said...

It's hard to believe anything AFBF says about EPA after the "cow tax" lie they perpetuated. Now they have started squawking about spill containment regulations for bulk milk tanks, only after they have been exempted.

BTW, I wish Anon and Keith could embed their "must-reads". I'm having a helluva time trying to type it all in!

Anonymous said...

Given the Iowa State study just out on soil erosion, we are not as far along on conserving the soil as Keith thinks we are. The EPA data may be closer to right than AFBF wants anyone to believe. The loss of soil producing corn to support ethanol production has to be the most foolish thing agriculture has done in a long long time.

Anonymous said...

NRCS likes to tout the phrase, "voluntary conservation works!" Voluntary? Hardly. Working? Not really. It may be time to use the statistics we have to to show to what degree 'voluntary' conservation is falling short. Could farmers possibly be "shamed" into doing a better job? They have no shame IMHO.

Keith said...

Here's one of the links:
As to 'paid', doesn't EPA contract with engineering firms, etc for studies? It's always in the assumptions.