Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Alabama's Family Farm Bill ~ Don't do it Kim S.

There's likely nobody in the blogosphere that thinks more of Alabama Senator Kim S. Benefield from Woodland, Alabama. I've known her for years and think she's top drawer. However, I do worry she's gone over to the dark side in supporting this ALFA backed legislation cleverly framed as the Family Farm Preservation Act.

Senator, didn't ALFA, likely the biggest of the Big Mules in Alabama, support Gerald "Dino" Dial against you? I know we must move on in politics. Surely having ALFA's support in the future will be helpful but hold them to a little responsibility please. Should this bill (and the actual text may be found via ALISON) become law then instead of the seemingly happy porkers to the left (that might be the ideal even if not always the reality) you'll have plenty of this. The Anniston Star labels this ALFA backed bill the "Alabama Agribusiness Advancement Act" and rightly asks why it fails to define "family farm". "Hog Farm Bill" might work just as well.

I'll also send you to the Top Ten Reasons for rural communities to be concerned about large-scale, corporate hog operations by John Ikerd, Agricultural Economist, University of Missouri, Columbia. One of the things he references is the fact that small operators will be harmed by CAFOs in most cases. The Sierra Club's Cahaba Group tells us "While corporate growers claim to bring economic growth to small rural communities, the truth is that they tend to hamper economic growth. For every 3 jobs created by corporate agriculture, 7 rural agricultural jobs are lost. The big profits end up in out-of-state corporate headquarters."

The Anniston Star closes with:

This space can concede that there is a place in the farm economy for CAFOs. They (concentrated animal feeding operations) are a byproduct of a food culture that place more importance on cheap than healthy or sustainable. Reversing this factory farm trend is a long, hard slog; the good news is the struggle has begun as more people are coming to appreciate the "eat local" movement.

A law that prevents new CAFOs from coming in to fill existing neighborhoods with flies and smells and health hazards should not be allowed. Nor should existing factory farms be allowed to expand to create a nuisance for existing neighborhoods.

In effect, this law, which is being debated in a statehouse committee Wednesday, gives large factory farms a free pass to expand or relocate, and it discourages those who feel they have been hurt by what is done from seeking legal redress.

Unless the bill is rewritten to define a family farm and clarify the responsibilities and rights of farmers and non-farmers in dealing with farm-operations byproducts — and to remove the clause inserted to discourage citizens from going to court with their grievances — this proposed law should never get out of committee.

There's a better option that this legislation Kim S. Get it right and then we'll see. But don't open Pandora's Box. John Gunn

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