YOU CAN’T WIN FOR LOSING

Farmers have always used the latest and greatest best management practices to produce safe and affordable food in a way that preserves the environment because that’s the right thing to do.  Now, even best management practices can’t save them from the threat of lawsuits.

Yes, lawsuits.  In a country that repeatedly tells us that they love family farmers and wants to see them succeed, family farmers everywhere are desperately trying to protect themselves from losing everything in a lawsuit, even when they are trying their best to follow the letter of the law.

As an example, the US EPA is currently working on new spray drift regulation that would essentially consider any chemical leaving any nozzle as a point source pollutant.  The US EPA would like to require all farmers (and local muncipalities spraying to control mosquito populations or even normal citizens wanting to spray) to obtain a permit to apply these chemicals.  Aside from the fact that the chemicals in these low doses have been proven safe, the problem here is that state EPAs don’t have the staff available to issue all the permits.  This leaves farmers either unable to apply their crop protection products or applying them without a permit.  As you might guess, applying them without a permit opens farmers up to the threat of citizen lawsuit. 

What’s a farmer to do?

If you’re in IL, perhaps you’ve followed the Tradition Dairy case in JoDaviess County.  This is a lawsuit brought on by a citizen group that is absolutely convinced that the dairy being sited in JoDaviess County will harm their health and bring other ruin to the county.  Nevermind that the state legislature has set up strict guidelines on siting livestock facilities and how they are managed (called the Livestock Management Facilities Act) and that Tradition Dairy has followed every single one and more, the citizen group has the right to sue the dairy owner over a perceived threat of harm before the livestock farm has even milked one single cow! 

What’s a farmer to do?

Add lawsuits over high fructose corn syrup aiding the spread of pancreatic cancer and animal rights which would effectively allow a farmer’s herd of cattle to sue him to the list … and this list isn’t even exhaustive!

What’s a farmer to do?

Certainly if our country supports rural economies and the farms that run them, we need to rethink subjecting our farmers to this level of scrutiny.  If American citizens really do love family farmers and want them to succeed, they cannot allow a flock of chickens to sue.  What small business man could stand up to this sort of obsurdity?

Farmers need rules to follow just like everyone else in any other industry under the sun.  Best management practices are a good thing and laws that demand such practices are necessary to ensure that each and every player in our food production system is operating with integrity.  But when is following the law enough?

What’s a farmer to do?

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

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