Respected environmentalist off the mark on whatsupstream information

5/26/2016This defense of the “What’s Upstream” attack on farmers published on Salish Sea Communications comes from a respected environmentalist (and neighbor of this blogger who also lives on Padilla Bay). Pete Haase is well known and respected in the Pacific Northwest environmental community as evidenced by his award from Re-Sources.

Unfortunately, he is repeating some of the false accusations of the whatsupstream content providers. Mr Haase states: [the whatsupstream website] has a lot of information about water pollution caused by some agriculture-industry players because of minimal regulation or oversight. I say “minimal” because I am well aware of the extensive water pollution regulations and inspections that almost any other industry, port, or municipality is subjected to.

We certainly wouldn’t question Mr. Haase’s familiarity with pollution regulations applying to those other groups, but it appears he may not be fully informed of the very large number of regulations applying to agriculture. We invite him and others concerned about this to review our page on this called Farm Regulations Facts.

Mr. Haase states:

When herds of cattle graze in fields that border a stream or ditch, it is common practice to set the fence as close to the top of the bank as possible, without it falling in. Farmland is precious. Some places have hundreds of cattle loitering along those fences, rain or shine.

As I am a close neighbor I am probably seeing some of the same cows he is referring to. But it is not common practice to set the fence as close as possible to a bank. For dairy farmers the Dairy Nutrient Management Act specifies zero discharge and any discharge of manure to surface water can result in enforcement action. Buffers are a big part of that protection. Buffers are either required in counties such as Whatcom County through the Critical Areas Ordinance or applied as part of the Voluntary Stewardship Program. The guidelines followed by most farmers using this is very detailed. It would be good for those interested to learn more about buffers. Our page on that will show where the 800 miles of farmer-supported buffers are located. Mr Haase and others may be surprised to see that the average buffer size is 142 feet.

Perhaps the greatest scientific problem of the “research” that Mr Haase seems to trust and refers to dates back to the 1990s. This outdated research completely misses the mark in describing the current state of farmer stewardship of the environment. The 1998 Dairy Nutrient Management Act, for example, has been very successful in sharply reducing contributions from dairy farms as noted by the Lummi Nation in their 2008 Atlas.

We have every reason to believe that Mr Haase and other environmentalists like him are serious in their concern about the environment. This is why the whatsupstream, filled with false accusations, distortions and even embarrassing use of images such as the Amish cows and images of spawned salmon in juxtaposition to farming is doing such a disservice to the environmentalist cause. A closer look will show that farmers are recognizing that practices of the past have been damaging, change through regulation and proactive stewardship is making a tremendous difference and that our water quality problems and environmental issues affecting salmon, shellfish and water are far more complex than trying to place the blame on our family farmers.