Editorial: Of cows and humans

Rappahannock County is not alone when it comes to litterbugs. It turns out, according to recent news reports, that rural areas of even notoriously tidy Switzerland are awash in roadside litter. But unlike some Rappahannockers, the Swiss do not blame marauding black bears — or, if humans must be blamed at all, illegal aliens — for litter problems.

Rather, litter is like the climate change melting the glaciers in the Swiss Alps — something for which we all must take personal responsibility.

Ever practical, the Swiss don’t see the litter problem simply as one of aesthetics. For litter is killing their cows — literally. Discarded beer and soda cans, hamburger cartons and plastic bags are inadvertently shredded by harvesting machines in with the hay and silage; then this metal and other such debris can often prove fatal to unsuspecting ruminants.

Even if the dairy cows survive, iconic cheeses, like Emmentaler and Gruyere, might well be adversely affected.

So it is that Swiss farmers and environmental groups have now joined forces in an urgent campaign to alert citizens to the unintended and dangerous consequences of thoughtlessly tossing trash out of automobile windows.

Closer to home here in Rappahannock, environmentalists and farmers work together to keep cows’ own litter (i.e., poop) from chemically killing the Chesapeake watershed. Though not as toxic as suburban lawn fertilizers, livestock waste is a contributing, and not insignificant, factor in altering the healthy chemical balance of downstream waters.

So it is that the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District now has available — through its Agricultural Best Management Practices — a program to fully reimburse livestock producers 100 percent of the costs of erecting riparian buffers and fencing. Previously, the reimbursement covered only 75 percent of farmers’ costs. In addition, there is no cap, as in the past, to the amount of funding available for individual projects, even when the affected stream is a very long one.

But the program’s total funding is limited, and will be supplied on a first-come, first-serve basis; so if interested, please contact the District office soon at 540-825-8591 or 540-672-1638.

Walter Nicklin