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Growing Gardens, Growing Communities

by Ray Bowman

(From the July 19 edition of The Farmer’s Pride)

A project being sponsored by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture will likely end up growing more than fruit and vegetables.

Commissioner James Comer joined Louisville mayor Greg Fischer and other supporters July 2nd to break ground for the new Urban Garden at the Parkland Boys and Girls Club in Louisville.

“We’re so proud of all the hard work that has gone into this project,” Comer said. “This is amazing, and you’re doing something that is going to make a difference for this community and for many people for many years to come.”

Students who participate in the project will be getting hands-on training in real world skills by planning, growing and marketing the produce from the garden. Along the way, they’ll be learning about food preparation and proper nutrition.

Field trips to farmers’ markets and local producers will support classroom and garden experience.

City councilwoman Attica Scott had praise for the project as well as the Parkland Community Garden, just down the street from the Boys and Girls Club. “People come there not only to grow fresh fruits and herbs and vegetables, but to build community and to build relationships.”

Last summer, the Franklin-Simpson Boys and Girls Club piloted a similar project, which Parkland CEO Jennifer Helgeson credited for laying the foundation for the Louisville garden. Four additional “Seed to Sale” projects are anticipated at Boys and Girls Clubs across the state.

In early May, rifles and knives that had been evidence in the corruption trial of former agriculture commissioner Richie Farmer were sold at auction. The money collected from that sale was dedicated by Comer to help fund the urban garden project. Additionally, financial and technical assistance will be provided by Anthem (Blue Cross and Blue Shield) Foundation, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension, Caudill Seed, The Green Building and Louisville Grows.

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EPA and Farmers at odds about water regulations

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by Ray Bowman

(From July 17 edition of The Farmer’s Pride)

Kentucky has over 49,000 miles of rivers, creeks, streams and tributaries. The commonwealth currently boasts 1,090 commercially navigable miles of water, more than any other state in the continental U.S., making up about 4% of the nation’s 25,000 mile inland waterway system. That should make the term “navigable” pretty important to the Bluegrass State.

Yet, when the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers penned the new “Waters of The United States” (WOTUS) rule to alter the 1972 Clean Water Act, they dropped that term from the description of waters they oversee. That has agriculture interests protesting what they see as an attempt by the Agency to control even more of the practices farmers and ranchers can engage in without seeking permits. Opponents say the new rule could impact activities as fundamental as building fences and repairing stock ponds.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not once but twice recently struck down attempts by EPA to interpret the Clean Water Act more broadly.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy visited neighboring Missouri to try and debunk what she termed “myths” about the new rule, which the agency claims was proposed to “clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands.” Agriculture leaders are countering that argument, saying the new rule is about as clear as mud.

Nebraska Rancher Anne Burkholder thinks calling this rule environmental protection is the real myth. She says that McCarthy’s explanation of the intentions of the rule don’t hold water. She says the regulation is based on the words on the paper, and in this case those words may be open to considerable interpretation. “When it comes to regulatory bodies of the government, we’re not regulated on intent, we’re regulated by the words on the paper and on the way our legal system interprets those words.”

“We think this is indicative of what the EPA has been doing in recent years at every turn,” says Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation president Mark Haney. “People want to be good stewards, they want to do the right thing, but I think they’re saying ‘enough is enough.’” He says the state Federation fully supports the American Farm Bureau Federation “Ditch the Rule” campaign, launched to get the rule withdrawn. “There seems to be a lot of ambiguity in what EPA is saying.”

Senator Mitch McConnell says the rule is not just bad for farmers. “I have heard from Kentuckians across the state and from various different industries on this issue. All are concerned this is another power-grab by the EPA to essentially regulate every ditch and pothole in our state.” McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul, along with more than 30 other U.S. Senators are co-sponsoring a bill introduced by Wyoming Senator John Barrasso which seeks to block finalization of the rule.

As Mark Haney notes, the proposed rule is ambiguous – and long. However, if you’d like to read it for yourself you can find it on-line at http://www2.epa.gov/uswaters. There’s also a link to allow comment on the rule. The comment period has been extended to October 20, 2014. The American Farm Bureau Federation’s “Ditch the Rule” campaign web site can be found at http://ditchtherule.fb.org/

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