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The recently released video, Collateral damage: A farm family under attack, details the events surrounding the lawsuit instigated by the Waterkeeper Alliance against the Hudsons, a Maryland family that raises broilers, cattle and crops, and their integrator, Perdue Farms. The 15-minute video compellingly presents the circumstances leading up to the lawsuit and the Kafkaesque decisions of the Waterkeeper Alliance and the University of Maryland’s Environmental Law Clinic to continue to pursue the case after what they had supposed to be a pile of chicken litter was shown to be municipal biosolids.
Essentially, the Waterkeeper’s and the government-funded law clinic decided that facts didn’t matter when the public good, as they determined it, was at stake. The video documents the damage this adversarial approach to achieving improvement in environmental protection has on individuals and to society as a whole. Environmentalists on the Delmarva Peninsula appear on camera discussing how this litigation has damaged the decades-old cooperative relationships which have been forged between government, environmentalists and farmers on the Eastern Shore.
There is no silver bullet for reducing the level of nutrient enrichment of watersheds while still allowing for residential and industrial growth and maintaining agriculture as a viable industry. Some environmentalists have learned that farms using best management practices can contribute less to nutrient enrichment of watersheds than the subdivisions with the accompanying treated wastewater effluent would. The only way to make real progress and find solutions is for there to be cooperation among all parties, and litigation ends cooperation.
I hope that environmentalists, farmers, regulators and the general public watch this video and take a few moments to reflect and realize that the courthouse isn’t the best place to find real solutions to complex problems. I would also like to suggest that someone come up with a new best management practice for storing biosolids on the farm; it seems to me that if you cover chicken litter, you might want to cover biosolids or at least keep it away from a ditch.