FairmAid and CREDO have joined together to draft a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder to follow through on ongoing investigations of anticompetitive conduct in the dairy industry and to investigate the antitrust allegations outlined in pending lawsuits filed against DFA, Dean Foods, among others. Please read and sign the letter here.
Tune into “Gasland” on HBO Monday June 21st at 9pm.
Folks in NYC may be feeling secure about gas drilling, and lulled into silence about the threat. After all, NY State has bowed to pressure from the City and decided there will be no drilling for methane gas in the NYC Watershed. You should not feel secure, because gas drilling will poison your food shed.
You should understand that the industrialization and pollution of rural upstate New York will kill the production of organic and sustainable food in this region. The area of food production is almost all outside the NYC Watershed, and vulnerable. Massive amounts of toxins will be pumped into our aquifers and air. These hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds, known carcinogens and endocrine disrupters, are pumped into the ground in massive quantities in the drilling process, and released into the air from evaporation tanks.
The gas and oil industry is relying on your silence so they will be unopposed. Their current plans are for 8-10 wells per square mile, pumping billions of gallons of toxic water into the ground. They will pollute the air and water of a large region that represents most of NY State food shed, directly threatening the agricultural base that you rely upon for your food. This includes the western Catskills, across the Finger Lakes to western NY. Most of Pennsylvania is also under the gun.
Pollution of water, air and food from the gas drilling industry is exempt from all federal pollution laws, thanks to Dick Cheney’s 2005 Energy Policy Act, and its “Halliburton Exemption”. Incredibly, gas drillers can pollute without regard to the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, or the Clear Air Act. For instance, it is legal for gas drilling to cause drinking water to contain high levels of carcinogens like benzene that violate the Safe Drinking Water Act because the Safe Drinking Water Act simply does not apply if gas drilling is the cause. With state of affairs, the public and the environment have been defenseless against gas drillers (who are one and the same as the oil drillers). They have used the cover of this exemption to ruin the air, water, and landscape of large swaths of several western states, and are now moving east.
I am not prone to overstatement about health issues, but it is hard to express the magnitude of this treat in a short email. On a personal level, if gas drilling occurs in our area, I cannot image Slope Farms surviving. We simply will not be able to produce food that you will want to eat because of the toxins in the water that our cattle drink (and my family drinks as well), and the massive pollution of our air. This assessment is shared the many producers of sustainable agricultural products with whom I’ve spoken.
As a result of contamination of drinking water from gas drilling in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Wyoming, and air in Texas, the US EPA has finally begun to study the risks. There is proposed legislation at the federal and state level that would more closely regulate gas drilling. There is a proposal in NY State for a moratorium on drilling until the EPA can complete its study of the risks. But none of this legislation currently has enough support to pass. So public awareness and pressure is critical. But it is doubtful that the current form of gas drilling (“hydrofracking”) with its injection of massive quantities of water and toxins in the ground can be done safely, even with regulation.
“Gasland” is a documentary on gas drilling. It will premier on HBO June 21 at 9pm. It is a 2010 Sundance Documentary Prize winner. It will give you new knowledge of this industry and its threats. You should see it. You should tell your friends. This industry is powerful, and has a track record of ruthlessness. We need an informed public that is vocal to protect our food and water.
I recently learned that a large-scale concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) may soon be built in central NY. According to the company’s Dec. 14, 2009 press release, Bion Environmental Technologies, Inc., has received the support of the Oswego County town of Schroeppel, NY, to proceed with plans for a 72,000-cow, 6-barn, beef CAFO with associated ethanol production and beef processing plants. In Bion’s own words, this operation will be the “largest individual cattle livestock facility east of the Mississippi River.”
After a fair amount of research into this planned “Project” (as Bion refers to it), I am writing you today to urge you to stand against it in any and every capacity possible. I realize that you do not represent the district in which this CAFO is planned, but the effects of such an operation are wide-reaching, and have real potential to negatively impact every NY district, and far beyond.
Some of the more pressing concerns about this proposed CAFO are:
- Bion is touting the project as “environmentally sustainable.” This is misleading the public, however, because the operation will still require massive amounts of fossil fuels (for shipping, energy, etc.) and environmentally damaging land use (for corn crops, etc.), and the long-term detrimental effects of this sort of livestock operation on the environment are far worse than grazing/finishing cattle by rotation on grass pastures. Just because something is less bad does not make it a good idea, especially when far better options do exist.
- According to its press release, Bion plans to market its beef products as “local” within a 300-mile radius of the facility. Aside from the glaring fact that describing a market circle encompassing more than 282,000 square miles as “local” is far beyond appropriate, this is problematic because it creates unfair competition for truly local independent farmers actually raising cattle in truly environmentally responsible ways.
- Also, while Bion trumpets the company’s plan to market its product as “local” within their 300-mile radius in its press release, this presents a problematic contrast to the response Bion gave on a Citizens’ Q&A forum last year (when the same CAFO project was being considered for a St. Lawrence County location). When a citizen inquired about the possibility of increased access to local beef, Bion responded that “[Bion] has not represented that its output will be sold within St. Lawrence County.” It seems that Bion tells people what it thinks will benefit the company the most at the time.
- As mentioned above, Bion had been courting St. Lawrence County for essentially the same CAFO “Project” last year, but abruptly backed out due to concerns over whether they would be able to properly finance the situation amid the economic crisis. This, in and of itself, raises questions about Bion’s ability to fund a project of this magnitude. Additionally, Bion originally stated that it would return to the project in St. Lawrence County when the credit markets loosened up, but in actuality Bion abandoned SLC and moved on Oswego County with no explanation. This only raises more questions about the company’s ways of doing business.
- Bion advertises that they expect the creation of between 300 and 600 jobs from its proposed Oswego County CAFO project. This may sound very enticing, but we must think beyond the short-term and consider how many small, independent cattle farms will be negatively impacted in the long-term in that huge 300-mile radius due to the unfair competition from a corporate giant deceptively representing itself as local and sustainable.
- Bion has indicated that it will attempt to obtain any local, state, or federal assistance available to the company on the basis of its self-professed environmental sustainability. However, again, this will only reduce the amount of funding available to those independent farmers who are truly trying to raise cattle in a healthful and environmentally responsibly manner.
- Bion has never implemented its proposed technology on a scale even close to the proposed project’s size. In fact, the operation on which Bion is modeling its 72,000 head CAFO proposal is a 1200-cow dairy operation in Texas. That means that their proposed CAFO operation in Schroeppel is sixty times larger than the model, involves a different product (beef instead of dairy), and is to be implemented in a radically different climate.
- Bion’s plan hinges on what it refers to as its “closed-loop integrated technology platform,” in which corn byproducts (called WDGS) from the ethanol production process would be a large part of the cows’ finishing diet. Yet recent independent studies (including studies conducted by the USDA) have indicated that cattle fed WDGS harbor higher concentrations of harmful e. coli bacteria, which translates to increased risk of contamination and human sickness or death.
- Current research has also shown that meat from cows fed WDGS has a higher fat content (including trans fats) and less visual appeal on the retail market. Additionally, diets high in WDGS have been shown to cause polioencephalomalacia in cattle, an acutely fatal condition often seen in “downer cows” that causes the cow to become disoriented, go blind, stare skyward, and repeatedly ram its head against walls or other hard objects.
- It is worth noting that the research mentioned above all compares meat from cows fed WDGS to that from cattle fed just corn, but remember that it is now widely known that even meat from cattle finished on corn alone is significantly less healthful than meat from cattle finished on natural grasses. Feedlot/corn finishing is also known to be much worse for the cows’ health, as well as for the environment, when compared to cattle grazed on rotated natural grass pastures and finished on grass too.
The points listed above are just some of the many reasons why Bion’s “Project” is not a good idea for New York (or anywhere, for that matter). What we need in this state is a network of independently operated, small-scale, reliable, USDA inspected slaughterhouses to accommodate the honest, local, responsible farmers of the state without unreasonably long wait times or preferential treatment for Big Ag corporate farms. What New York State does NOT need is Bion’s CAFO. Therefore I respectfully request that, should the opportunity present itself, you vote in the best interest of the good people of New York by voting AGAINST Bion’s CAFO project.
Meredith Grosshandler is a native of the Northeast. She spent her adolescence playing in the mountains and farm meadows of southwestern Vermont and Washington County, New York. Although she now lives in Albany, her childhood experiences continue to influence her daily life. As a product of nature herself, she advocates respectful and responsible cohabitation with all of nature’s other creations.