Industrial agriculture leads to the contamination of drinking water
Having read the article “Local farmer looks to limit ‘weaponization’ of outside groups,” [Wadena Pioneer Journal, Jan. 30, 2020] I need to respond. First off, it is laughable that anyone could avoid the fact that air, water and soil are all able to travel well beyond imaginary political boundaries. Voting to eliminate the voice of people downwind or downstream for being too contrarian is to lay claim to the power to control nature.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that follows the Pineland Sands story that some people have reacted to keep large agribusiness immune from citizen concerns. These reactions speak to one of two basic possibilities.
The first is the less attractive — that many of the people who are trying to limit Northern Water Alliance attempts to draw attention to contamination issues in the Pineland Sands Area are carrying sand (pun intended) for the RD Offutt Company (RDO). The second, more attractive possibility, is that many of these same people are simply unfamiliar with the amount of alarming science that has accumulated around chemical intensive irrigated agriculture and the nearly messianic problem-solving capabilities of true regenerative farming.
Someone once said if you want an enemy for life, shame a person in public. This is an effort to avoid that. Notice nothing was said about shaming a corporation.
Many residents of the Pineland Sands Area who have to filter their chemically contaminated drinking water (remember Park Rapids?), drill deeper wells to regain access to a depleted aquifer, or endure exposure to airborne chemicals are disturbed by the rallying of a portion of the agricultural community around chemical intensive irrigated row cropping. This rallying can be considered a good thing though, because it demonstrates a caring network inside a shrinking ag community.
Once the facts are examined and squared away inside this community it will quickly progress away from chemical use and back toward natural farming, because this caring attitude will have grown to include everyone.
There is a concept in human psychology called “motivated cognition.” This concept basically says that people will believe some pretty outlandish ideas if it helps relieve the stress that a person develops while trying to hold two opposing view points simultaneously; in this case, loving your family, neighbors and land while using petrochemicals that interfere with the health of all these and more.
Most farmers who currently use chemical intensive methods have been comforted by the misleading (at best) claims by their chemical salesman and chemical companies that their products are safe. Petrochemical corporations are likely the worst violators of scientific truth-telling that one can imagine.
For example, consider how DuPont and 3M have exposed nearly the entire world to their “forever chemicals” during Teflon production, and how much time these companies invested in covering this up. Enbridge and others who bring oil to the refineries where many waste products of the process are redesignated agricultural chemicals are no better. Syngenta, Bayer, Monsanto — follow the money definitely applies here, and remember all these corporations have roots in chemical warfare.
American farmers are routinely lied to by petrochemical and industrial interests, enabled by political strong arming of national and state regulators.
Many who read this will say, show me the proof. One of the best places to start is with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Township Testing Program. Wadena County, for example, has several townships that have been included in this program. Wing River Township is one. While the depressing numbers show about 10 percent of the township’s wells are unsafe to drink from, these numbers are likely quite optimistic.
The reasons for this are fourfold. 1) Shallow wells are not included in the final data. 2) Well owner response rates to water testing offers are usually only 20- to 30 percent. 3) The 10 ppm of nitrate in drinking water that the state uses for the maximum allowable contaminant level has been shown to be far too high to protect human health (see EWG 2020 report on tapwater in Minnesota. 4) The chances of also finding pesticides in drinking water are high when nitrate is found much in excess of what naturally occurs (in the Pineland Sands Aquifer this is under 1 ppm).
Here’s a 2018 quote directly from the Township Testing program: “An estimated 336 people in Wadena County’s study area may have drinking water over the Health Risk Limit. Nitrate contamination is a significant problem across much of Wadena County. Additional public awareness and education programming will need to take place in many of the townships.”
The contamination of drinking water is being found to be a huge problem anywhere industrial agriculture is prevalent, not just in Wadena County, the Pineland Sands Aquifer, or Minnesota, but nationwide.
It is past the time for our society as a whole to eliminate the use of petrochemicals as much as possible. We should be well beyond the efforts by the few to obscure knowledge and rights of the many. As we move toward clean energy and regenerative farming, the oil, coal, gas, and nuclear interests become less intimidating and less necessary. The rebirth of local economies with small farms and electric micro-grids begins with the death of the chemical culture and import of foreign food. The love of one’s family, neighbors and land can become complete.
It is good to give thanks and credit to the Creator here. This letter is radically different than the first version and the timely input of wisdom from many people from many cultures has shown how we all are connected, and how we need to consider our neighbors as we look to overcome some large hurdles in our path.
Northern Water Alliance