Commentary: Are activists really in it for clean air?

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The irony is huge: Activists who profess a desire for a clean environment would rather see dairy farmers get in trouble than have the farmers work proactively with regulators on finding solutions.  

That’s one farmer’s conclusion following a two-year pilot study in Yakima County, Wash., where 12 dairies worked with air-quality scientists and regulators to reduce air emissions. 

Rather than seeing the farms work proactively with regulators, the activists would prefer to see “us have our names splashed in the newspaper saying we are guilty of something,” Genny DeRuyter told those attending the Western Dairy Air Quality Symposium in Boise, Idaho, on April 16-17.  

DeRuyter has first-hand knowledge of how the activists work after her family’s farm ― DeRuyter Brothers Dairy in Outlook, Wash. ― was sued in 2008 by the Western Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Community Association for Restoration of the Environment.

After subjecting the DeRuyters to two years of legal hell, the suit was dropped.

Genny DeRutyer gave one of the most eloquent descriptions I had ever heard of the dairy farmer’s plight in these matters, trying to be up speed on the technical aspects of air quality ― a science in itself ― while also trying to keep cows milked, the farm running efficiently, and a myriad of other issues. 

Indeed, when you are in the business of milking cows ― serving as chief cook and bottle washer on a number of fronts ― “the amount of time to deal with being in environmental compliance is daunting,” noted Kevin Abernathy, director of regulatory affairs for the Milk Producers Council in California.

It makes you wonder why the solution to this issue isn’t education rather than litigation.

Abernathy and others at the meeting cited progress in quantifying air emissions, scientifically, rather than relying on estimates or outdated studies that miscalculate the amount of methane emitted from a dairy cow. That is definite progress, and basing the discussion on facts helps take the emotion out of it.

But the activists would rather keep it emotional, they noted.

An air-quality regulator said he and fellow regulators are in a tough spot because no matter what they do, they are likely to be sued by environmentalists who think the regulations not strict enough.

The totality of these remarks leads me to the following question:

Are the activists really in this for clean air or do they have a hidden agency, such as animal rights or vegetarianism, which leads them to file the lawsuits instead?




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Ohio  |  April, 25, 2013 at 09:37 AM

I strongly agree with the conclusion. As a Professional Agricultural Engineer, I have worked on several suits on both sides. As a professional, I look at the facts and the laws and come to conclusions based on the facts. When working for a neighbor, my conclusion was that the permit was basically sound, just needed a small wording change in one point to meet NRCS standards. Yet went to a hearing. Another wanted to regulate bioaersol drift from irrigation of dairy manure from large dairies only. It looks like many of these environmental groups are just another business model to get money for their jobs.

Wi  |  April, 25, 2013 at 01:02 PM

Why are farmers always blamed first in air or water quality issues? Due to recent heavy rainfall here in Wisconsin the city of Milwaukee released raw sewage was released into Lake Michigan. Where is the uproar over this? If a farmer was to have a spill this would get splashed all over the headlines. Where is the justice in this?

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