Furthermore, consequences induced by the great Ag vs. Non-Ag Sector divide have led to misfortune and lowered morale for many agricultural producers. The few that bear responsibility for feeding the many also bear an unequal share of legislation, public scrutiny, and law enforcement, while city dwellers often get let off the hook. When it’s rural political power vs. urban political power, majority rules.
A Share of Legislation
California, Proposition 2 passed in 2008. The law, which will go into full effect in 2015, decrees that laying hens must have enough room in their cages to fully stretch their wings, lie down, and turn in a circle. That sounded good to 63% of California voters (ironic: 63% of Americans are pet owners…i.e., if they owned chickens, they’d probably carry them around everywhere and paint their toenails, too…wait, like I DID!). No one thought one more step ahead to wonder:
- Why it could have made sense to house hens in that way (see comments and Hard to Swallow)
- How the birds laying the inevitable $2/dozen egg imports would be treated
- How many struggling families may have to forgo eating eggs because of higher costs
- The gargantuan start-up costs for those wanting to remain in or enter the business
…and what we have now is a massive outsourcing of food, i.e., a national security issue. Schwarzenegger pledged that any imported eggs would also be made according to Prop 2. Really? Where’s the egg in the McMuffin coming from, and will it be on the Dollar Menu?
A Share of Law Enforcement
So, a city-dweller would never expect the EPA to issue a fine for exceeding a bacterial Total Maximum Daily Load because your dog is using the backyard as a toilet and it’s entering the drainpipe when you turn the sprinklers on. An example of urban bacterial sources are as follows: 38% waterfowl; 26% humans + pets; wildlife 24%; rats 11%. Sometimes pets can contribute as much as 40% of the bacteria. Ugh, and you can also compare total bacterial output by source.
If a rural-dweller owns livestock, however, even though livestock bacteria only make up 22% of the total bacteria in a waterway, that person is held accountable. An example of rural bacterial sources are as follows: Pets, 8%; Septic leaks, 11%; non avian wildlife, 29%; avian wildlife, 7%; cattle, 22%; unknown, 10%; avian livestock, 1%; other non avian livestock, 12% (data courtesy of Dr. Redmon and Mr. Wagner, TAMU) Better keep a close eye on those ducks, people.
And can you believe it, the EPA wants to regulate dust production on agricultural property? They can, since 2% of the population is relatively easy to regulate.
A Share of Public Scrutiny:
It is also curious that agricultural greenhouse gas emissions (6%) receive more attention than electricity generation (76%), transportation (11%), and manufacturing (4%). Or, with regards to methane production, cattle always come up in conversation, even though these are the statistics: natural swamps (26%), rice paddies (20%), fermentation by cattle and other livestock (15%) oil, gas, coal leaks (14%), biomass combustion (10%), landfills (7%), and animal waste (3%; Heilig et al., 1994, Houghton et al., 1990, as cited in Wahlen et al., 1993)