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MOF&G Cover Spring 1998

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 Winter of Our Content Minimize

Factory Farms are Not Appropriate

By Jean English

What a thrill to pull the Bangor Daily News out of the newspaper box on January 5 and see a front-page story about MOFGA’s success in raising enough money for its permanent site to meet a $500,000 challenge grant. How rewarding, also, to read a few stories about the promise of organic agriculture in that same, mainstream paper this winter. Organic is more than acceptable now, more than a niche. It holds the promise of healthy soils, healthy bodies and a healthy economy for all of us. Consider, for example, a recent poll by the Food Marketing Institute showing that 54% of consumers would be more likely to purchase organic produce if it carried a national organic certification seal; 51% would buy certified organic meat and poultry; and 43% would buy certified processed foods. The same Institute also showed, in a 1995 survey, that 25% of all shoppers buy organic or natural foods at lease once a week and that 42% of all supermarkets were carrying organic foods in their produce sections. These figures have, doubtless, increased. For those of us who have been involved in this movement for a couple of decades or more, our diligence, sometimes against great odds, has paid off.

What a thrill to pull the Bangor Daily News out of the newspaper box on Dec. 13 and see a front-page story about the refusal of the Maine Board of Pesticides Control to permit a variety of genetically engineered corn to be grown in this state. Maine was the first state in the nation to take such action – and MOFGA’s public policy committee chair Sharon Tisher deserves our great thanks for her clear, intelligent testimony before that board about the lack of need for the particular variety and the potential damage the variety could wreak on organic farmers if it were allowed. The Green Party’s Nancy Allen was part of the “one-two punch” that helped convince the Board to deny the permit request, and Nancy Oden’s information about the herbicide-resistance link in the variety provided one more convincing argument against it.

What a thrill to stop at the country store in my town, the Lincolnville Center Store, and find organic apple juice, organic butter, organic peanut butter, and many more organic products. “We want to offer costumers a choice,” said Tish, who works there.

The weather’s been horrendous but this winter has seemed like a turning point for organic agriculture in Maine. We aren’t out of the muck that some aspects of conventional agriculture has stirred up; we still have a lot to set straight, such as the national organic standards; but things are looking up. We’ll soon see the warm spring sun, seedlings in their neat rows, more than chickadees at the feeders, kids playing in spring showers. We’ll watch with excitement as the permanent site takes shape. We’ll probably count even more organic growers this year than ever before. It’s such a great time to be associated with MOFGA and all of its wonderful people.


Factory Farms are Not Appropriate

By Jean English

More than one blight threatens the Aroostook landscape. You know about the first one. The other is the specter of “Confined Animal Feeding Operations” – more appropriately called factory farms – proposed by Breton, Inc., of Quebec. Breton is the largest corporate, livestock “farmer” in our part of North America. It proposes housing a thousand hogs at a time per building in its Aroostook operation. That’s a lot of manure. A lot of stink. A lot of potential groundwater problems. A lot of antibiotic-laced feed.

In communities in other parts of the United States where animals are factory farmed, people are finding themselves living in – or leaving – rural slums. In North Carolina, effluent from hog factories has contaminated groundwater, especially along the Neuse River watershed where serious lagoon spills have occurred. A fish eating bacterium has proliferated where manure from North Carolina factory farms has contaminated waterways. Factory farms are rural disasters waiting to happen.

Organic farmers should not support these kinds of “farms.” They are not appropriate to the spirit of ecological farming. I doubt that the pigs like them very much, either.


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