Editorial: When money talks . . .

Even here in Rappahannock County at the very headwaters of one of the main rivers that feed the Chesapeake Bay, we recognize the truth in the notion that “we all live downstream.” That is, we understand that our “upstream” behavior inevitably affects others and the world we live in.

So it is not at all understandable why the American Farm Bureau Federation — of which Rappahannock’s Farm Bureau is a part — has filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to thwart its so-called “pollution diet” for the Chesapeake Bay.

“Why?” I recently asked one of Rappahannock’s members of the local Farm Bureau. “It’s all political,” he allowed and shrugged his shoulders. By “political,” he apparently meant the huge funding that big agribusinesses provide the Farm Bureau on both the state and national level.

The Farm Bureau’s lawsuit has now been joined by some attorney generals in states whose streams and rivers do not even lie in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, instead flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, the states in the Chesapeake watershed, including Virginia, have all signed off on the obvious need for a “pollution diet” to mitigate long-term damage to our waters.

“So why don’t you mind your own business?” one is tempted to plead.

But from the point of view of corporate farmers — as opposed to family farmers — it is indeed their business, for they fear that the Chesapeake’s pollution standards might establish a “dangerous precedent” for all the agricultural run-off in the Mississippi watershed. What happens in the Rappahannock — and its sister rivers of the Potomac and James — is but a drop in the bucket compared to the Mississippi. And unrestricted use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides is what Big Ag wants.

It’s a shame that the Farm Bureau, like so many other organizations and institutions nowadays, seems controlled by Big Money. Yes, money talks — or, rather, screams so loudly that it hurts.

Walter Nicklin