Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Time away...

I just spent over 24 hours away from my family and my blog. I was about 90 miles away attending our biannual regional Fisheries work meeting, which turned out to be more interesting than my name for it suggests. We had a good mix of area office and hatchery updates, which was interesting considering two of the three hatcheries in our region sustained considerable damage from the August floods in southeastern Minnesota. And we had some very good research updates and invited speakers. My favorite was Paul Wotzka, a former hydrologist for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, who was fired for testifying to the state Legislature about the dangers of atrazine, a commonly used and very profitable pesticide. For background info on the dangers of atrazine, please visit Tyrone Hayes' Web site. Think cancer, endocrine disruption, et cetera.

I am concerned about atrazine on a local level. Wotzka spoke about how quickly chemicals reached the groundwater in areas of karst topography. We have a slightly different kind of karst topography here, sandstone replacing limestone, but still the fast movement of rainfall into groundwater has been demonstrated. Not to mention the fact that atrazine occurs in rainfall, and has been found in Lake Harriet, a very urban water far from any corn fields. I don't live in a very agricultural area, but I did notice many more acres planted in corn this year. And does the atrazine rainfall reach me?

In Minnesota, we are experiencing an ethanol boom. Farmers are growing corn for higher prices, and ethanol plants are springing up everywhere under the (ahem. misguided.) promise that ethanol will solve our nation's dependence on foreign oil. So, since the year 2000, the number of acres treated with atrazine has steadily grown, farmers are taking acreage out of conservation programs like CRP to grow a suddenly profitable crop, while all the evidence shows that the production of ethanol shows little to no net gain in energy, not to mention soil erosion and pesticides getting into the water we drink.

I could go on and on about this. I think the rush towards ethanol is wrong on so many levels. Where does "doing with less" fit into the picture? All of the ATV's, snowmobiles, and overpowered boats are a luxury use of fuel that should be scrutinized.

I also roomed with Jean, my office secretary and the Best Office Professional In the World!, and maker of the best baked goodies (except for Dave our regional Project Administrator who makes a killer carrot cake!). I found out that she and I probably have a lot more in common than I ever thought. I just need to work on the State Fair award winning jams, jellies, and pickles part. :) Anyway, she is a real sweetheart, really knows how to enjoy life, and I hope she never retires! :)

But, I am glad to be home, humble as it is.


MojoMan said...

Ethanol: Once again, big money and political influence win out over common sense and the common man.

Deb said...

Amen, Mojoman. And there is great environmental and health damage to be done in the process.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on the ethanol thing! We live in Waterville, MN. Just 10 miles from us on Hwy 14 between Waseca and Janesville, they are building the biggest plant around these parts. They are all over southern MN. I know they will be sitting empty in a couple of years! What a waste of tax dollars! Most of them are partially funded through tax dollars. On a lighter note, we have a fish hatchery here in Waterville, too. I often go birding there. A few years ago we had 3 Sabines Gulls spend a week there. I'm not sure how many ponds we have. The main guys name is Hugh Valient.

pablo said...

My daughter-in-law's grandfather is a big man in Indiana agriculture, and he told me that the whole ethanol thing is truly nothing more than corporate welfare for corporate farms. Everyone in the business knows it's a boondoggle, and they're enjoying the money while it lasts. I have no reason to doubt this.

I love carrot cake, by the way.

RuthieJ said...

Wow Deb, now you got me going too! There are so many things in this post I could rant about also: limestone karst topography (living with it), CRP acres going back into corn production (you already know what this habitat loss does to birds and wildlife....), herbicides & pesticides that kill every f*#@ing thing except a genetically modified grain crop and running into the groundwater that provides the wellwater I drink (not to mention streams, rivers & lakes).
Do you think most of these folks will ever figure out how much harm they're doing before they've destroyed every good and natural thing in the unending quest for fuel? (big sad sigh)
Thanks for letting me rant from down in the SE MN cornbelt!

Anonymous said...

Deb, I live in SE Mn, where everything is limestone, as a matter we have a sink hole on our 1 1/3 acre yard. It started a number of years ago about the size of a fist and is now 10 to 12 ft across. The street in front of our home drains to the adjoining homes' backyard and then into the sink hole in our yard. There is a corn field across from us also, that drains to the hole. There is an ethanol plant just 9 miles east of us. Yes we are impacted by all this, this is a farming community and most crop land is planted in corn and some soy beans.
The state fish hatchery is within a 25 min drive from us at Lanesboro, MN. Yep, everything drains down hill to you know where. The fish in the hatchery were mostly destroyed by the flooding last August. I'm glad you brought this to every one's attention, it needs to be addressed. Pesticides and herbicides have a place, but not to our advantages, enuf said for now.
Nature Knitter's Mom [Betty K] from Wykoff MN. Fillmore County

denise said...

I live in Milwaukee. Even here in this largely paved over hotbed of urban sprawl farm runoff is an issue. You may remember our little Cryptosporidium problem from a decade ago. If we do not stop the Monsantos of the world from controlling what farmers can plant we are certainly a doomed society. We have certainly learned nothing from our failures both of land management and food management resulting from the switch to a corn based agriculture following WW2.

Don't even get me started on the absolute uselessness of continuing our monoculture of corn under the guise of energy efficiency! I agree that ethanol is NOT the answer to the problem of inordinate consumption and waste that has become the foundation of our culture. Behavior and attitudes need to change before any true progress will be seen.

Lynne said...

I'll toss out another view- What about the impact of taking corn away from the production of FOOD! Corn-based food prices have risen for all of us but the price increase especially impacts Spanish speaking countries (ie Mexico) where corn is a huge part of the daily diet. Ethanol benefits big business. Period.

Anonymous said...

Deb, should have mentioned that all the shallows wells are gone in our area [well most of them]. Wells on each farm are down at least several hundred feet at an astonomical cost, just to get away from ground pollution that sifts thru the limestone. It is all not manmade some is from huge feedlots, that's pollution too.
Enuf all ready from me.
Nature Knitter's Mom [Betty K]

Deb said...

Great discussion! Thanks for all the thoughtful comments.

Cindy- I agree, the whole thing is going to bust within a couple years. And then us taxpayers probably get to bail out the investors...again.

Isn't Waterville the Bullhead Capitol of Minnesota or something like that? :) I know Marc, the assistant manager there, and a couple of researchers, but I don't know Hugh. That's cool you got to see the gulls; I saw my first Sabine's last fall in Duluth.

Pablo- So you're getting it straight from the horse's mouth so to speak. Where's the public outcry?

You would be in heaven if you tried Dave's carrot cake. :)

RuthieJ- Feel free to rant any time! You've just about touched on every reason why this ethanol thing, and industrial agriculture, is so wrong. And, why everyone who eats and/or pays taxes should be aware of the status of the latest Farm Bill reauthorization (I should be more aware myself). Although I don't think writing your Congressperson will make a difference...or will it?

BettyK- Clean water should be a basic human right. We have a shallow well here, but then I'm near the top of a fairly pristine watershed, until they find a way to grow corn on the swampland.

Interesting you brought up the Lanesboro hatchery (where we get brown trout and rainbow trout to stock in one lake near here). IN the atrazine talk, Wotzka talked about how they tested the spring water at all three hatcheries in the driftless area, and atrazine levels were above the level shown in scientific literature to be harmful to fish and amphibians NEARLY 100% OF THE TIME. Which may explain why the brown trout are hardly ever caught, even in survey nets.

Denise- Yes, why hasn't conservation even been mentioned? Because they want to sell more and more ethanol-based fuel? And this seed patenting thing scares me, although I am encouraged that the counter movement (saving open pollinated seeds) seems to be gaining momentum.

Lynne- The food aspect is a major issue; I believe our agricultural land should be used for food, not fuel. Whatever happened to the "pesticides and GMO seeds will solve world hunger" argument?

Deb said...

I might add, we found out at the office today we were approved for one "high mileage vehicle" to attend anything where we didn't haul fish. The vehicle we were approved for was a Chevy Impala?!??!!???!!!

I don't know. I really don't know.

denise said...

WTF????? You gotta' wonder just what they are thinking...and WHY???