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Agriculture takes on factory environmentalism

Has the Waterkeeper Alliance become the very type of institution it professes to despise? It sure looks like it.

The environmental activist group, whose powerful current chairman is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., banded together in 1966 in an effort to return America to a pristine time when waters and lakes were crystal clear and teeming with life, farming and ranching were strong and central to community life, and hard work paid off in peace and prosperity.

These days, Kennedy has fabricated a bad guy to pump up his donor base – factory farming. Kennedy most certainly doesn’t like it much.

In a talk at the 2009 Pure Farms, Pure Water National CAFO Summit, Kennedy worked the crowd like his famous father. “People believe you can work hard, play by the rules and succeed, and that democracy worked. Then all of a sudden they’re confronted with this apocalyptical evil of an industry that comes into their community and steals the health of their children, steals their property value, steals their jobs and puts them out of business … It becomes an exclusive club. It’s just a reproduction of the European feudalism that our ancestors came here to escape from to create a democracy.”

Kennedy’s organization felt so strongly about the imagined ills of factory farming that in 2009, staffers from a member organization went up in an airplane and flew around until they found somebody to sue the heck out of (for what they assumed was a violation of the Clean Water Act).

Only thing is, the farm they flew over that day was playing completely within the rules, according to the Maryland Department of Environment. And on top of that, this was not a big bad corporation, but Maryland farmers Alan and Kristin Hudson. They raise corn, soybeans, hay, a few beef cattle and operate two chicken houses. Their operation is small compared to the average farm in the state.

This apparently didn’t matter to the Waterkeeper Alliance, which packs its own unique brand of factory environmentalism. They use a simple formula. Tap its wealthy, politically-connected donor base to sue a small family farm that can’t afford legal costs. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a case, which it didn’t  When the family farm is forced to settle out of court, it sets a legal precedent that allows the alliance to go after other operators.

Fortunately, the Mississippi Farm Bureau, Maryland Farm Bureau, the U.S. Egg and Poultry Association and others are part of a coalition,, to raise money to help defend the fourth generation Hudson Farm, which so far has amassed over $100,000 in legal fees.

Ironically, the Hudsons are the very type of farmers that followed the model that Kennedy praised in his speech – they worked hard, played by the rules and succeeded. The Waterkeeper Alliance should respect those values, not run them out of business.


TAGS: Beef
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