Food is not always something that you put in your mouth and eat!

Sometimes I read things and shake my head, thinking sarcastically to myself, REALLY?  A recent study by a group of worldwide scientists have introduced a map of “hot spots” for antimicrobial resistance in animals in low to middle income countries.  The study indicates that bacteria resistant to antibiotics is on the rise worldwide.

To clarify my use of the word’s antimicrobial and antibiotic in the same sentence, they are basically the same thing excepting that antimicrobials are used for a few more things than just bacteria.  I’m using the words interchangeably, in this post.

To be precise, antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these medicines. Bacteria, not humans, become antibiotic resistant. These bacteria may then infect humans and are harder to treat than non-resistant bacteria. Antimicrobial resistance is a broader term, encompassing resistance to drugs to treat infections caused by other microbes as well, such as parasites, malaria, viruses, HIV and fungi, according to the World Health Organization.

A recent article in Science, a publication of the American Association For The Advancement of Science, delves into the study and reports the development of an index to track the evolution of resistance to multiple drugs. Worldwide, the numbers have almost tripled for chicken and pigs over the last 20 years. Currently, researchers say that in chickens, almost half (.41) of drugs fail 50% of the time.  In, pigs, over one quarter of drugs (.34) fail 50% of the time.

According to the article, “the global scale-up in demand for animal protein is the most notable dietary trend of our time. Since 2000, meat production has plateaued in high-income countries but has grown by 68%, 64%, and 40% in Asia, Africa, and South America, respectively. The transition to high-protein diets in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) has been facilitated by the global expansion of intensive animal production systems in which antimicrobials are used routinely to maintain health and productivity”.

Furthermore, “73% of all antimicrobials sold on Earth are used in animals raised for food. A growing body of evidence has linked this practice with the rise of antimicrobial resistant infections, not just in animals but also in humans. Beyond potentially serious consequences for public health, the reliance on antimicrobials to meet demand for animal protein is a likely threat to the sustainability of the livestock industry”.

Now I shake my head.  This is not news in the sense that the conversation over antibiotic resistance and the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in animal production for food has been in play for decades.  I feel like saying “no kidding, we learned this in kindergarten”.  The statistics are staggering however we will continue to debate the issue, worldwide, because industry will deny the science and say it’s not sound, inadequate, or bias. In the United States, we’ve been down this road and the debate was fierce despite the mounting evidence.

What baffles me is why the conversation hasn’t included the method of raising the animals which could be the root cause for the need to heavily dose livestock with antimicrobials.  Could it be the heavily concentrated confinement production system of raising animals provides a breeding ground for bacteria, parasites, viruses, and others?  Could it be that continual dosing of animals before they’ve even had a chance to contract anything that might need antibiotic treatment is an effort to prevent diseases that are sure to come given the way the animals are raised?

Antibiotics and antimicrobials are enablers for the unsustainable system of industrial animal production therefore we don’t address the root cause.  It’s big business folks.  Take chickens for example, since they have the highest incidence rate of drug resistance or antibiotic treatment failure worldwide.

In one industrial sized chicken McMansion, on average, each broiler chicken is provided .67 square feet of living space for their entire short life of 6 to 7 weeks.  I often use the analogy to put into perspective – the area is less than 1 sheet of paper 8 1/2 x 11 inches or .935 square feet. The new chicken McMansions can hold up to 50,000 chickens.  I generally have school age people stand in a group, each on a sheet of paper to demonstrate what it would be like.  If you are able, imagine that space keeping you confined where you eat, drink, sit, stand, sleep, defecate and urinate for 6 to 7 weeks.  Do you think that you might get sick?  Are bacteria and other microbes, parasites, and viruses breeding to infect all of you or some of you?  Do you think you need a heavy dose of antibiotics?

Treating with antimicrobials might solve the immediate problem and dosing before the animals get sick might prevent illnesses…. but then again, the treatment might NOT work.  It’s akin to playing Russian Roulette.  All the while unseen things are happening like bacteria and other things becoming resistant to the drugs and jeopardizing humans to where antibiotic resistance takes hold.

All in all, and I’ll give the benefit of the doubt, unintended consequences arise in the unsustainable and heavily concentrated industrial animal production system.

Experts agree that antibiotics and antimicrobials have become enablers for this system to survive. 

Regulations have curtailed industry practices of antibiotic use in some countries.  However, some of the same players in the industry can be found practicing the very thing that they are well aware of in low to middle income countries where curtailing of these practices hasn’t caught up with them.  From my experience’s over the years with the poultry production industry they are globally playing by the same old rule book.  Do it until we are told that we can’t.  It makes dollars and cents to follow the rule book.

There is much more to learn from the study if you are so inclined to do so.

By Carole Morison

A letter posted on a Facebook page,  DelMarVA Poultry (uncensored), on Friday made its rounds.  The letter indicates that Allen Harim, a local chicken company on Delmarva, will be “sacrificing” flocks of their chickens on farms they contract with.  The reason for the decision by the company is because it doesn’t have enough workers showing up to its processing facility to slaughter and package the chickens. Considered essential personnel it doesn’t say why workers aren’t coming to work whether it be sickness or social distancing.

Attributed to Covid-19, worker attendance at the company processing plant has been reduced by some 50 percent, according to the letter, and the company is no longer able to slaughter the amount of chickens that need to be slaughtered.  Calling it a “very difficult decision”, Allen Harim has begun killing chickens on the farms it contracts with.  The growers the company contracts with will be left with the responsibility of disposing of the dead chickens.  A local television station, WMDT 47, says the number of chickens being killed is almost 2 million.

The first thing that came to mind when I read the company letter was how will the contract growers be paid? As a farmer, and having raised chickens under contract in another life, it was an automatic reaction.

Allen Harim say’s “growers will be paid fairly”, without giving any detail.  The chickens aren’t being killed because of a catastrophic illness such as Avian Influenza, which would be done by order from either the state or federal governments and pay is normally outlined in the contract between the company and the farmer.  There is no governmental order to kill these chickens, it’s a private company decision because of inadequate planning.  I’m willing to bet my bottom dollar that payments will go to the company for the economic loss, from some government fund, because of a National Emergency and lack of employees to process food.  What the company decides to share with contract growers is anyone’s guess.

The thought of wasting so much chicken that otherwise would help to fill the shortages in grocery stores stared me in the face.  I felt badly that there would be so much food waste while people are scrambling for it!

However, thinking of it from an animal welfare perspective, in this case, euthanizing the chickens might not be such a bad idea. A projected oversupply of at least a 6-week period by Allen Harim, would mean that the chickens could remain on farms for an extended 6-week time period if kept alive.

Chickens ready for slaughter have already grown to a targeted weight in 6 to 8 weeks on the farm.  Through genetic selection, industrial chickens are designed to grow rapidly, far ahead in weight gain compared to bone and internal organ growth.  Kept and fed longer would only add more weight to overburdened bones and internal organs and the chickens would suffer bone and organ issues, primarily heart attacks and skeletal problems such as legs not able to bear the unnatural weight.  With a shortage of workers the company cannot guarantee that it will continue to bring feed to farms.  Do you keep animals and watch them suffer until they die?  Do you keep animals that might starve?  I think not.

If you’re curious about how the chickens will be killed, quite frankly they will be smothered using gas or through mechanical means.  The fans which bring fresh air inside of the chicken house are turned off and a gas is pumped into the chicken house until enough is used to kill the chickens.  The gas method is costly, inconvenient to arrange depending on locale, and takes a much longer period time.

Mechanical means, called “ventilation shutdown”, consists of turning off all the fans that bring air into the chicken house and then wait for the chickens to suffocate.  This method costs nothing and is easily done. It can be accomplished in a much shorter amount of time.  Some say in as little as 3 hours.  Either method is gruesome.

Some have voiced environmental and public health concerns.  Environmentally speaking, the issue of how the dead chickens will be disposed of is my concern.  One method is to leave the dead chickens inside the house, let them compost, and then clean all of it out from the chicken house(s) and spread it on farm fields or have it hauled away to other farm fields to be used as fertilizer. This method is costly and takes time.

Using the burial method of disposal is the quickest, cheapest, and easiest method.  It involves digging a trench or pit, putting the dead chickens in and covering them with dirt.  The problem with this method is leaching and discharging contaminants into groundwater.

The chickens aren’t being killed because they have a disease or virus which could potentially spread to other chickens or make humans sick.

Is this situation a single occurrence or a preview of things to come from chicken companies as the Covid-19 virus slowly makes it way past the Delmarva Peninsula.  Poor planning of chicken production numbers and not taking the virus and the many warnings into account is the reason it’s an issue.  Delmarva’s poultry industry is not immune.

All over the country, processing plants are experiencing worker shortages, some have had to shut down.  Although Allen Harim doesn’t say if the absent workers have tested positive for Covid-19 or if they are sick, it can safely be assumed that some if not all that are absent are ill.  Workers that I have spoken with say that they’ve been threatened with job termination if they don’t come to work regardless of feeling unwell or not.  Many don’t speak or understand English very well or not at all, cannot find work anywhere else, and don’t understand the law.  They have families to feed and would not miss work on a whim.  Let’s hope and pray that any workers who are sick with the virus get well again and don’t become another statistic.

There are so many ways that the people of Delmarva are affected by the poultry industry and so many ways that they pay for it.  It’s unsustainable and only survives when propped up by taxpayer dollars.  Two million chickens being slaughtered and dumped because of poor business planning before and during a pandemic should not be happening.  This is another example among many of how the industry has negative impacts on the communities that surround it.

Small Farms Step Up

The corona virus is looming in everyone’s mind like a giant dark cloud hanging over our heads. The past few weeks have brought many changes to our lives and we are finding ourselves adjusting how we do things, in many ways. We are what I call an instant society where everything is acquired on demand. That has changed.

I say that with good intentions, however I’m sure that some might take offence or get angry. My view of this time in our lives is not meant to anger anyone, rather it is a suggestion to take the time to reflect on how we lived just 3 short weeks ago and compare it to how differently we do things now. Always the curious one, I must go one step further and look at the how and why of happenings.

Early on, fighting over toilet paper broke out in stores. I found that to be humorous and said, “that’s so ridiculous” but again, the word in my mind was “why”. That one thing, fighting over toilet paper, just to stockpile it at home and ensure you have enough, because there won’t be any more available at a later time made me think that there are much more important things to worry about, such as the availability of food. We all need food to survive not toilet paper.

Will there be food available in the weeks to come? Can we rest easy in thinking the stores will have plenty through these dark times? Can we believe that the food we are purchasing isn’t carrying the virus? What about the people who’ve handled that food whether it be during packaging or loose produce in stores that customers have picked up and discarded? I’ve heard some say that they aren’t buying any meat or fresh produce until the pandemic is over. Others say they aren’t so sure that these items will be available in the weeks to come. As more and more people become infected with the virus, as predicted, who will be working in processing facilities? We’ve already seen meat and poultry cases in stores that are empty because of panic buying.

What I have seen is more people looking to their local farmers for food items. Independent farms that sell online as well as at the farm or farm store are seeing sales increases and increased demand for their products. Now might be a good time for small scale sustainable farms to look at their business plan and adjust the way they are doing business, looking to other avenues than Farmers Markets to sell their products. Farmers Markets are good for local sales but at a time of social distancing maybe not so good.

Online sales are through the roof. If you want to begin to sell your products online and aren’t sure how to do it, I’m sure that there are farm organizations out there that will assist you with learning. Check with the farm organization that you participate in and see if they are offering it. Even after the pandemic is over there is going to be a shift in the way consumers purchase. Mostly for convenience as well as finding out how easily it can be done from their own home.

Taking the step to open an online farm store will, of course, require a bit more work and cost than selling directly to consumers or grocery chains. There are many examples of virtual farmers markets and single farm websites to help get an idea of what a farm wants to do and how it will be done.

For the consumer, online farm stores or markets have become a “go to source” for food during the pandemic. Products not available in grocery stores can be had online. Again, there are many examples to choose from. If you are in an area where the farmers markets are located, such as a virtual farmers co-op, you would be purchasing from either local or regional farms. The second choice is what many individual farms participate in and feature that farms products. It is an individual farm website, if you will. Choices are more limited of what’s available and from what I’ve seen many offer meats and poultry as well as dairy products. These farm websites usually sell nationwide and ship products or they service an entire area such as the northeast or southwest as an example.

Both the farmer and consumer can benefit from online sales. The farmer expands his/her avenue of sales and the consumer is supporting local sustainable small-scale food production. There is assurance of where the food comes from, who has processed/packaged it, and who has brought it directly to you. The only thing missing from the mix is direct human contact between buyers and sellers. I guess we could take the virtual farmers markets and institute online meetings with the farmers where buyers can connect directly with the farmer and they can speak with one another, such as a Zoom meeting. This would have to be set up timewise but it’s not something that isn’t doable.

For years advocates have encouraged consumers to “buy local”, “know your farmer know your food”, “know where your food comes from”, and other such mantra’s. One could shout it from the rooftops, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will heed the advice. It takes a pandemic for consumers to realize that their own local farmers might be able to supply what they are looking for. Many farmers say that their online sales have significantly increased, in part, because of new customers. The new customers are people who can’t find what they are looking for at the local grocery store or they don’t trust what is being offered. One can only hope that the trend continues.

Bait and Switch

I receive a lot of emails.  I have a habit of going through them and responding to the immediate reply ones, of which there are many, deleting the ones that aren’t anything except what my junk email folder didn’t get, and then there are the ones that I tell myself that I’ll save for later to read when time is not so short.

Today is one of those days that I go back through my email and weed out.  This is cleaning out the in-box and transferring emails to folders where they belong, after reading them.

While catching up on my reading this morning, I came across an email from a colleague concerning the Ammonia Emissions Model, recently released by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The link in the email led me to a local blog, SBYNews, and the statement about the Ammonia Emissions Modeling from the industry organization, Delmarva Poultry Industry (DPI).

It was nothing unusual, the same old denial and shift blame routine.  What caught my eye, was the comments below the statement.  I’m not sure what relevance the writer thought the comment had to do with ammonia modeling.  It shifted gears to ignorance for which there is no excuse, but, is a good example of the choir backing up DPI.

“I bet most of you have never been in a chicken plant. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But you might be surprised by the type that works in one. Most are one step up from animals themselves.

And the rest of them you wouldn’t want inside your home.”

This, folks, is a perfect example of the “elitist” attitude that some self-appointed person has said that because you work at a chicken plant on the Eastern Shore of Delaware, Maryland, or Virgina you are one step up from an animal.  There are many people that I don’t want inside my home and they don’t work at the chicken plant.

Statements like this are part of the game plan that the chicken industry has instilled in anyone associated with it.  Compartmentalize people into classes, enforce the ranking of those classes, and have them go at one another.  It keeps the focus off the real issues.  Switch and bait, if you will.  This “anonymous” high classed person would surely be surprised to learn that the chicken industry says similar things about them, as well.  Everyone is fair game unless you are the owner of the company or part of the top level hierarchy.

I know people who work at chicken processing plants and they don’t behave anything like the “anonymous” commenter.  One family comes to mind.  Yes, the parents are in the country undocumented.  Yes, they’ve worked at chicken processing plants.  They’ve been in the United States for over 20 years and have managed to have employment (without documents) and earn enough to support a family.

The family was my neighbor at one point in time and I have to say that they were better neighbors than any other I’ve ever had.  The two eldest boys in the family made themselves known shortly after moving in.  They were no different than any other young boys except when their parents told them something, it was law.  There was no disrespect, no arguing the point, no tantrums, and no big explanation as to why.  If they didn’t listen or behave, they were punished by being grounded or having privileges taken away for a time.  They didn’t have much to start with, so when things were taken from them, it meant something.  Their parents dubbed me the boys American grandmother.  It was an honor and I was sorry to see them move away.

Those young boys are now adults and have a better work ethic than most adults.  I’ve seen them carry more than one job at a time and contribute monetarily to the family, who has managed to buy their own home.  They support their own needs or wants such as vehicles, socializing, living away from home, and other things that any person their age should do.  To this day, they stop by to visit occasionally and I’m happy to have them in my home.

So, what was it we were talking about?  My email habits, Ammonia Emissions Modeling, or people who are one step up from an animal?  You’ve just had a chicken industry short course on deflecting from the subject!  Bait and switch, if you will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the days of little to no tolerance for people who don’t think or agree with one’s own beliefs and to have no room for hearing anything that isn’t in agreement, I’ve had an epiphany, of sorts. I’d become one of the crowd.  I was raised better than that. With six siblings, there were always two sides to the many skirmishes, as one can imagine.

I was also taught that when you are wrong about something in a disagreement, you say that you are wrong.  In one of my previous blog posts, Oh, the tangled web we weave……..”, I implied that Samantha Campbell, President of the Keith Campbell Foundation, wasn’t really interested in alternative farming methods, other than the status quo of industrial contract chicken farming, on the Delmarva Peninsula.  I also took a quote from the Foundations website and said that it was disingenuous in reference to community exclusion over an ammonia data collecting project that the Foundation teamed up with chicken companies and the Maryland Department of the Environment.

 “Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.”  Campbell Foundation website

In that part of my blog post, I was wrong.  (That was not hard to say, maybe we all should reflect on it). Since that time, Samantha Campbell has reached out to me and was open to discussion about the project and inclusion of the community.  Although I wasn’t wrong about not having all of the stakeholders at the table when discussions took place, she has opened discussion about the communities affected.  I’ve had several chats with Ms. Campbell since then and they have been quite surprising to me.

She has also shown her interest in alternative independent farming on the Delmarva Peninsula of which I’m most appreciative.  The Keith Campbell Foundation was a sponsor of a recent fundraising dinner organized by Maria Payan, a consultant for the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP)  to benefit the Delmarva Farmers Union (DFU).  The proceeds will support DFU’s new program “Certified Delmarva Grown”  .

“The Certified Delmarva Grown (CDG) program, administered by the Delmarva Farmers Union (DFU), is a regional branding initiative, and third-party certification for farms and local food purveyors across the Delmarva Peninsula of DE, MD, and VA, [that] seeks to increase the economic opportunities for farmers, and businesses that are committed to supporting local agriculture. While many vendors, farm stands, and restaurants claim to sell local foods, the CDG logo ensures that those products are, in-fact, produced on local farms.”

Samantha Campbell liked the idea.

To say the least, the dinner was an excellent exercise in “Civic Engagement”, as community members bought tickets and attended to support local farmers and their locally grown products.  Amazingly, some attendees might be considered to be disparate partners.

In my usual way, I’ve had the subject of “two sides” in the back of my mind for a couple of months and found others who’ve had the same thought.  I like to mull things over in my mind for a little while before taking on a new idea.  Addressing within the community, the inequities of the modern industrial chicken production explosion, on the Delmarva Peninsula, with no regard for the consequences on neighborhoods and the community, is a subject that needs addressing.

As many know, the “chicken explosion”, so to speak, is highly contentious at its best, on a good day.  Encouragement by the chicken companies for the explosion of absentee owner, no land chicken McMansion developments, has been a “too bad for you” situation within communities.  Attempts to address the situation are pushed off to a mouthpiece organization for the industry which in reality has no place in the mix because it has supported these developments at every turn.

The idea was further brought home to me by a reporter looking to perpetuate a false narrative of a Hatfield’s and McCoy’s like situation between community groups and contract chicken farmers.  The need for this type of story is to enforce the argument by another mouthpiece supposedly representing farmers.  This organization represents corporate agriculture interests although it takes money from the farmers for “dues” but in no way cares about the actual farmer.  Claiming any opposition to a chicken McMansion being in the neighbor’s face as being “anti-farmer” is another false narrative and has no place in the mix.

The industry and communities need to have meaningful dialogue between one another, inclusive to all affected.  Direct, honest, and respectful communication could very easily solve some of the issues. Resentments would have to be left at the door and regardless of one’s own thoughts and beliefs, tolerance of another’s thoughts and beliefs in order to actually hear, not just listen, has to be the order of the day.

There is no clear legal definition of sustainable agriculture and that opens the door to anyone who wants to claim that their farming practices are sustainable. It also opens the door for anyone who wishes to define sustainable agriculture to suit their own agenda. Ironically, not all agree to the vague and self-described definitions.

In reality, sustainable agriculture is as old as the hills. Most farmers know about the “Circle of Agriculture” especially in raising livestock.

You don’t raise more animals on your land than what the land can adequately handle meaning that the land should be able to safely absorb the nutrients from the manure produced by the animals (no runoff) and used to raise enough grain or grass to feed the number of animals without using synthetic chemicals or fertilizers.

Going back to the word sustainable as it applies to farming. To easily understand the new agriculture lingo is simple revolving around the principle of methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources.

Unfortunately, there are many who have inserted their own words into the simple definition of sustainable agriculture to meet their desired goals or motives. These goals have nothing to do with farming and in doing so, what sustainable agriculture is has become terribly muddled.

A handful equate sustainable agriculture from a Utopian ideology that being an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens. In other words, utopia is a perfect “place” that has been designed so there are no problems. This would be a self-chosen lifestyle not agriculture.

Others have included sustaining the communities in which they live. Small scale sustainable farms support their communities through their purchases which are needed to live and farm. That falls into the category of a sustainable economy.

A few have decided that sustainable agriculture should include worker’s pay. Others have decided that farms should only be owned according to race and gender. While there is nothing wrong with a racially and gender diverse farmer community, as it should be, it’s really not something that should be dictated by the elitist group that I mentioned above. As far as what should be paid to farm employees that is more like a labor union than a sustainable farming group.

These are just a few descriptions of what those who know better have decided what sustainable agriculture is and if these methods aren’t incorporated into your farm you are somehow evil and you aren’t a sustainable farmer.

I’m certainly in agreement with the Circle of Agriculture and employing the simple definition revolving around the principle of methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources. According to USDA, utilizing more ecologically sensible practices, that poses no harm to the environment is a fully sustainable method of farming. I think that is closest to what sustainable farming practices are.

The one thing that we haven’t addressed in all of the made-up definitions is the economic sustainability of the farm.

Farming is more than a full-time job with long hours, blood, sweat, and yes, sometimes tears. Unless you’re independently wealthy, retired, or practicing a choice of lifestyle, farming is a business not a hobby. Which brings us down to what is sustainable.

In 2016, Americans spent an average of 9.9 percent of their disposable personal incomes on food—divided between food at home (5.2 percent) and food away from home (4.7 percent). USDA ERS

Almost equal to one-tenth of one dollar in disposable income spent on food doesn’t leave much for the farmer’s income. Most of that ten cents goes toward processing, packaging, transportation, and marketing and what is left over goes to the farmer’s gross income. From that the farmer has to pay the cost of production.

There isn’t much left over for the farmers spendable income. If one were to incorporate all of the definitions mentioned above, the farm wouldn’t be sustainable it would be bankrupted attempting to take care of everyone’s pie in the sky sustainability definitions.

As long as one practicing farming methods of balance with the land, water, and air, is caring for the welfare of their animals, does not use up or destroy our natural resources and environment – you’re doing a damn good job.

Maybe while the think tank Utopians are at it, they should find a way to sustain the independent farmers. Try marketing their products, start a “Buy Local” campaign, or pay the real cost of producing food. Until you walk in a farmer’s shoes to make a living, stop telling us how or what.

There are times in our life where we get a reminder, of sorts, that we don’t know as much as we thought we knew.  This reminder came to me a week ago, kind of like a knock, knock on the side of my head, so to speak.  I felt foolish and asked myself how could I be that naivete. 

This knock, knock on the side of my head came with the announcement of a private ambient air monitoring study to be conducted on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and in Central Maryland. The private project partnership is between Delmarva Poultry Industry Incorporated (DPI) and The Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment and will work with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).  A Memorandum of Understanding between the parties was signed on January 28, 2019.

On the face of things, it looks like a good project.  Right?  No, wrong, is the correct answer.  The study is an effort to undermine legislation introduced in Maryland’s House and Senate known as the Community Healthy Air Act (CHAA)  in order to delay public knowledge about what is emitted into the air that we breath coming from industrial chicken operations. 

The fox is guarding the hen house in this case.  The majority of people know that DPI is the industry trade Union whose mission, according to its website is “to be the Delmarva chicken industry’s voice as the premier membership association focusing on advocacy, education and member relations”.  DPI has vehemently opposed the CHAA, along with chicken industry companies and the Farm Bureau. 

The Maryland Department of Agriculture has been known to rubber stamp discharge permits for industrial chicken production facilities.  Legal challenges against some of these rubber-stamped permits have shown that MDE never did its homework before applying the rubber stamp and permits had to be withdrawn.  MDE has opposed CHAA from the get go along with the rest of the cartel.  It’s also no secret that Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan is opposed to the legislation.

Ironically, CHAA has no type of rules or regulations to be imposed upon the chicken industry and its concentrated production of the Delmarva Peninsula.  The legislation requires nothing from industry however it does require our state government do its job requiring MDE to monitor air emissions from industrial factory farms in Maryland and to assess their impacts on public health.  The monitoring would be a one-year study and would be completely transparent.  Results would be publicly available.  Transparent folks, not private.

When first we practice to deceive……

This is where the story gets interesting and when I had my dah ah moment.  The Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment (KCF) came along……

I have to admit that I was stunned when I read the press reports about the relationship between DPI, MDE, and the Foundation.  Then I got mad.

Backing up a couple of years, Samantha Campbell, President of the KCF and daughter of Keith Campbell paid me a visit on the farm to see what I was doing with pasture raised hens for eggs and the transition out of contract chicken farming.  Although not unusual in most parts of the country, independent poultry farming that is good for the environment on Delmarva is not common.  Thus, the reason for her visit.  I didn’t go looking for her, didn’t apply for a grant from the foundation, and quite frankly had never heard of Samantha Campbell.  She came looking for me.

I have to say that she pulled the wool over my eyes.  I thought that she was truly interested in farming methods that significantly reduces or eliminates negative impacts to the environment and our waterways.  In our discussion about the chicken industry she expressed her concern for the communities affected by the industry as well as the negative impacts to our environment.  I’m always up for sharing and educating others about viable alternative methods of farming.  On the outside, Samantha Campbell appeared to be genuine.

“Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.” 

Taken from the Keith Campbell Foundation website that says that they’ve hired a Program Director, for Civic Engagement under the Chesapeake Initiative.  Seems to me that the new program director forgot to include stakeholders for the air monitoring project.  You know, the community members who are trying to change the way they have to live.

I’ll be polite and say how disingenuous.  Those who know me, know that if I were being impolite, rudeness would rule.  Why in the world would a foundation spouting such platitudes team up with DPI to the tune of over $500,000 to fund a private study and have the fox, MDE, collecting the data and preparing the final report. 

In case you didn’t know, Samantha Campbell, hiding under the guise of a Foundation for the Environment and pretending to promote working together to improve the quality of life in the community isn’t done through a private study with the very industry that is making the community sick.  There’s no moral high ground for you to stand on when 1 in 4 middle school aged children have asthma in Wicomico County, Maryland.

Doing some further digging I’ve found that the Keith Campbell Foundation wouldn’t dare to bite the hand that feeds them.  According to the information I received, “the foundation funds are derived from the annual profits skimmed from Campbell Group/Campbell & Company” an investment management firm specializing in managed futures and cash equity strategies, hedge funds and the like.  In other words, tax shelter.  “Their client portfolio features varying interests that [are] truly embedded in some of the biggest wealth in the country”.  My source says that there is a “true unwillingness to antagonize publicly traded companies where “Campbell Group” in Towson is busily trading public securities”.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing the matter with making money.  It is wrong to be a poser who says that they care about the environment and civic engagement.  I find it very disappointing and sad that the very people who need civic engagement are being exploited to provide a platform for the Campbell Foundation to spout about what a do gooder it is for the community. 

CHAA provides the transparency needed to address a public health issue which is severely affecting eastern shore communities.  Especially the children who are the most vulnerable and defenseless.  While DPI, Keith Campbell Foundation, and MDE build up their stacks of money, power, and influence, the community has engaged on their own and won’t back down.  They find it to be their civic duty to find out what is in the air that is making their children, friends, and neighbors sick. What it all boils down to folks, is what is more important – money or the kids?

While I’ll end here for now, I’m not anywhere finished.  I’ve lots more research (digging) to do to expose the posers for what they are all about.  For now, we know that they are trying to stop CHAA.  Game on!

If you would like to initiate dialogue with Samantha Campbell you can contact her here – scampbell@campbellfoundation.org

 

 

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