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permits have shown that MDE never did its homework before applying the rubber stamp and permits had to be withdrawn.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 – firstname.lastname@example.org