Opinion

Soundoff:WEAN threatens farmers

By SCOTT SMITH

I shed a few tears yesterday when I read the article (News-Times, Jan. 25) concerning the demise of the Muzzall dairy herd. I shed a few today when one of my birds died. All in all, not a sterling mid-week.

I live at the end of Monroe Landing Road; down here we’re surrounded by dairies (at least we used to be). Corny VanderVoet and his wife are dead and gone, the family is not interested in dairy operations. VanDerWerfhost has sold out and now it’s Muzzalls turn to fold.

I’m scared.

We have all read stories regarding the demise of the family farm. Most have sold out to the big commercial operations that are far more efficient. Kinda like Wal-Mart and the mom and pop stores. Is it right? Is it what we want? Is it the way things have to be?

Well, we could burn up a lot of column inches and not agree on any point and I think that would be OK. OK for you and me but not the farmer who’s going under.

I take little satisfaction in knowing that most of the small farmers who love their land are bought up (or out) by groups that continue to farm the land in a machine-like manner. (Efficient, but not loving.) But, in the end, at least it’s still farmland. I will take absolutely no satisfaction when the erstwhile valuable property surrounding me is sold off to developers because it can’t be efficiently farmed.

Can this be blamed on WEAN? Not completely, but that does not excuse their part in it. I believe that WEAN is the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.” Nothing is ever going to be enough for WEAN. Victory is not enough, they now want to be the enforcers. Who in their right mind is going to make the investment to farm with these eco-Nazis analyzing everything they do and threatening to sue if it doesn’t fit into their view of the environment? Who can afford their agenda?

So what’s left to do with these defunct dairies? If they don’t make money they don’t pay taxes. No taxes equals foreclosure. No agriculture buyers equals rezone to residential. Residential zoning fights for RAIDs equals dense development (far south of the cash cow NAS crash zone). I can see it coming and it scares me.

WEAN’s march to environmental nirvana can have some very serious side effects and I see one looming here next to me.

One of the things I hold dear about living here (amongst the dairies) is the abundant wildlife. Dozens of different exotic birds, rodents, deer, marine mammals, predators, you name it, we’ve got it. Despite information from the Audubon figures to the contrary, we have huge flocks of seabirds too. (They leave during hunting season.)

I fear losing “my” environmental nirvana because of their actions. When these dairies cannot support themselves the owners will have no choice but to sell to developers. The habitat that supports a large portion of the wildlife in my neighborhood will be gone forever, covered in asphalt. When the food supply is gone, so goes the wildlife.

What is WEAN going to do to prevent this from happening? Are they going to force the county to buy the property to preserve the open spaces? One thing’s for sure, I’d bet my bottom dollar they are not going to open their wallets to solve this or any of their other perceived environmental disasters. That’s what your wallet is for.

Where does this madness end? How much is enough?

Scott Smith lives south of Oak Harbor.

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