County Council, please take note. Despite all the positive changes you have made to the county comp. plan [Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan], your efforts to address water quality and quantity problems are destined to fail for this reason: incentives.
I knew that it was a problem because we need regulations that can be enforced. Things that are voluntary can not be enforced and something as important as water can not be left to a voluntary opt in program, particularly where so much of this is a matter of mandated state and federal law. And incentives help our largest dairies and livestock farmers, the people who do the most damage, rather than smaller, organic farmers.
But the EWG [Environmental Working Group] helped me understand another angle to why this is a problem. Incentives provide more money to farmers which encourages more use of toxic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and other chemicals, none of which is being tested for in our waters, and all of which is information that is withheld from the public.
And we have not even begun to have conversation about farming and air quality impacts, but I can assure you that agriculture is a major player and contributes to thousands of deaths each year.
“Farm pollution from synthetic fertilizers and manure runoff is also the leading cause of water contamination in the U.S., which can double the risk of some types of cancer and fuel blooms of toxic algae.
“While many farmers do their part to protect the environment and reduce farm pollution, most do not. That’s because the incentives are all backwards.
“Ironically, farms are largely exempt from federal laws intended to clean up water pollution. Moreover, U.S. taxpayers largely subsidize the agricultural pollution problem in the form of unlimited crop insurance subsidies. That money overwhelmingly flows to the largest, most successful farm operations and promotes the use of synthetic fertilizers.” […]– Alex Formuzis