Today is election day, if you didn’t remember. Only a few hours left and all those ads will be done. Thank goodness.
Have you thought about how your voting decisions will impact food production in your area? Probably not. It is not something you find in all those negative ads. But more important than who is elected, is the laws that are passed. November 2nd is not the end of the political process. Instead it is the beginning.
If you want a diverse, thriving, local food system, that supports farms like ours, the local regulatory environment must support it too. While most only pay attention to state and national laws, like the Farm Bill, when it comes to agriculture policy, I argue that local laws may have a greater impact. Some argue that commodity subsidies are to blame for our monoculture cropping system, I would challenge you to look at your city and county regulations and ordinances first.
Many counties have regulations that say “Not in My Backyard” when is comes to livestock. We all know that a thriving, diverse agriculture culture includes livestock. But regulations that are not friendly to livestock farms, big or small, drive away or drive out of business farmers. We all want a culture where livestock farms and crop farms live in harmony and support each other’s business. When inputs such as livestock manure and crop rotations that include hay are in a cropping system, there are many benefits to the environment. Livestock manure lessens the amount of chemical fertilizer need. Hay protects against soil erosion, suppresses weeds and breaks up the biological cycles of harmful insects.
A friend once told me that her home county in south central Minnesota use to be a large dairy county. Now you can hardly find any cows or barns still standing. The reason? The county has strict permitting laws. They didn’t allow many dairy farms to expand. Guess what? When dairy farmers were looking to expand (and I am not talking thousands of animals, I am talking 100 or so), so that they could make a little bit of money, they were not allowed. So what did the farmers do? They either sold out or went into crop farming.
There are many examples of laws/regulations that create negative impacts for livestock farms. Zoning restrictions, restrictions on the transportation of manure, laws against expansions of feed lots are just a few of the examples. Many of these restrictions had good intentions, with unintended consequences. They wanted to either protect the environment or the area’s perceived culture. Often the restrictions are made out of fear. Fear of images of polluted rivers, smelly farms and animal abuse. Often these fears are not reality. If you want to support smaller livestock farms in your area, restrictions, in my opinion, are not the way to go. Smaller farmers are usually forced to follow restrictions that do not fit their operations and many times are cost prohibitive.
So as you go to the voting polls, make sure that you continue your civic duty the remainder of the year reminding your elected officials how you would like to see agriculture in your area. We all have a voice and most times your elected officials never hear from constituents on an issue.
Happy Voting Day!
Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy. We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com