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Journalist @baltimoresun writer artist runner #amwriting Md Troopers Assoc #20 & Westminster Md Fire Dept Chaplain PIO #partylikeajournalist

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Reprint from nine years ago: Ag, Bay groups remain wary of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Reprint from nine years ago: Ag, Bay groups remain wary of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Ag, Bay groups remain wary of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Update March 21, 2015 - Sadly this is a dead link:

For years, the agricultural community has been distrustful of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

But in recent months, various officials from the farm community and the foundation have been able to sit at the same table and push for a common goal — to have a viable, profitable agriculture that protects the environment.

Both sides are critical of the “dating” relationship the two groups are experiencing, and both say that marriage is far into the future.

Down for the count?

Before 1997, CBF and the farm community had what some have called a mutual existence.

“I guess we had a non-relationship prior to 1997,” said Bill Satterfield, executive director of the Delmarva Poultry Industry.

In 1998, however, that changed, when Pfiesteria was discovered to have caused fish deaths in the Chesapeake Bay.

“We did what we believed was right at the time,” said Kim Coble, Maryland executive director for CBF. “That’s when the relationship severed. I think (the farmers) resented our call.”

That call was to crack down on nutrient management. A scientist from North Carolina State University had come out with research that said the Pfiesteria was caused by poultry manure. The foundation wanted poultry companies to share responsibility for their growers’ manure handling, and the Parris Glendening administration agreed.

“We may be part of the problem, but we’re not the biggest part of the problem,” said Buddy Hance, president of the Maryland Farm Bureau.

Though the research was disproved, the relationship between the two communities was severed.

“The two communities have been fairly separate historically, which is unfortunate,” said Michael Heller, farm manager of CBF’s Clagett Farm. “By approaching the problem in a one-dimensional way, they put the agricultural community on the defensive.”

Read more here: Update March 21, 2015 - Sadly this is a dead link:

Taking a risk

In the past, CBF would tell farmers one thing, but turn around and release a report that would say another, said Delegate Paul Stull, R-4A Dist.

“It seemed like every article that came out, (they) were ridiculing the farmers,” he said. “We all want to see clean water and a clean bay. Farmers aren’t the only ones polluting the bay.”

Hance received a call last summer regarding the the CBF’s report, “Vital Signs: Assessing the State of Chesapeake Agriculture in 2005.” The foundation called to ask him if he would be willing to go to the press conference in September announcing the report.

He checked with Farm Bureau leadership, and asked to see the report, which details the importance of agriculture to the Chesapeake Bay, ahead of time to help make the decision.

“Everyone always says be careful who you get in bed with,” Hance said. “We haven’t gotten in bed with anybody. People just have to move on. You can’t dwell on the past. You can’t hold a grudge.”

And meeting in the middle and working together, officials say, is the best way to accomplish goals for the both groups.

“I think we all need to know when we’ve got a goal to meet,” said Lew Riley, Maryland’s secretary of agriculture. “I think the farm community realizes the importance of the Chesapeake Bay. I think the environmental community realizes the importance of the agricultural community.”

Relationship counseling

Both groups can now sit at the same table in the Lowe House or Miller Senate buildings in Annapolis without going after the other.

“I’ve got to hand it to the farm community,” Coble said. “There wasn’t one person who wasn’t willing to turn the page from here. I have a lot of respect for the farming community for turning the page that quickly.”

But some are still critical of the cooperative spirit that has surfaced in recent months.

“It wasn’t that many years ago, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation was accusing agriculture of causing Pfiesteria in the Chesapeake Bay,” said Sen. Richard Colburn, R-37th Dist. “You just have to be careful in any new friendship. Hopefully it will be a lasting alliance. It’s a wait-and-see attitude that you have to take.”

And while farmers are happy to have CBF on their side, they say they are still wary.

“Everyone I’ve talked to is viewing it with guarded optimism,” said Steve Moore, a Sudlersville farmer. “In the past, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has been an adversary to the farmers, rather than an asset. We’re happy to see them working with the legislature … and we hope that continues.”

The foundation acknowledges the communication barriers of the past, and says it is working to show farmers that it really is on their side.

There were “mistakes of poor communication and we apologize for those,” said Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “Saving the bay and saving the farm are just two sides of the same coin. If we lose our agricultural heritage, we’re going to lose the bay.”

Moving on

Changing its perspective has helped elevate the foundation in the agricultural community. The foundation now sees farming as the most cost-effective way to save the bay, and as the best way to help the environment.

“They had a change of direction,” said Jim Saathoff, a farmer from Denton whose land in Dorchester County would be impacted by the Blackwater Development. “We’re treading lightly. They’ve been honest so far, at least with me. They’ve come to realize that blaming the farmer isn’t going to save the bay.”
Saathoff said the organization deserves a chance to prove itself.

“Let’s work with them and see if they’re serious about this,” he said. “We don’t have many more chances to save the bay. The watermen will tell you there are dead zones out there, and farmers didn’t make them.”

Trust takes time, as it does with any relationship, and officials from both groups admit that change hasn’t taken place overnight. The farm community is still suspicious of the bay foundation, and the environmental community has accused CBF of being too lenient on farmers now.

But the groups say they are willing to give each other a chance.

“We’re not going to agree on everything,” Hance said. “We’ve agreed to disagree. So far, it’s working out. It takes time. We didn’t expect everyone to agree on everything. But you can still have differences and get the work done.”
Looking at the change of heart from both groups is almost a sigh of relief for some, and the sigh brings with it a hope for the future.

“There’s a very genuine sense that we really want to help farmers keep farming,” Heller said. “If we lose farms, we’re losing a valuable ally for solving water quality issues. It’s more than just a change in saying what we think of agriculture. We have to link farm viability and bay health, and not just focus on the bay health piece.”

Back to the future

Forgiveness is divine and the groups are moving forward, putting the past behind them, said Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, R-38th Dist., and Senate minority leader.

“Inside, I still have a lot of frustration about what happened under the Glendening Administration. At the same time, we must extend the olive branch and we must go beyond that anger. We must work out a genuine, long-lasting partnership.”

As far as “first dates” go, Riley said he married his first date, and hopes that the groups will continue to work together to have a true partnership.

“It comes together very well when you’ve got a cooperative effort,” he said. “It’s encouraging to see the two sides coming together. Life’s a lot more pleasant for me and a lot more pleasant for farmers.”

Both sides recognize the advantages in working together, and look to cement a relationship that can go beyond dating.

“The farming community has met us more than halfway,” Baker said. “I think we’ve gotten over the past and we’re moving forward. We’re working for the future and trying to put the past behind us. We realize we have to earn the trust of agriculture, and we’re prepared for the long term investment. I believe it. I’m committed to it. We’re committed to it.”

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