Bad for the Environment. Bad for Animals. Bad for our Health…Really?

Remember when farmers used to be respected? The very word farmer would conjure up images of Grant Wood’s American Gothic or any of a number of Norman Rockwell images depicting life on the farm.

Not anymore. According to pop culture and perhaps even a generation of consumers, “factory farms” are nothing more than cesspools of pollution that cause fish kills, abuse animals, and destroy communities. Farmers are pawns in a world run by corporate giants as they plant mutagenic GMOs that will surely advance an Armageddon like end to life as we know it. And if dairy is bad for you then meat is pure poison.

Here’s the problem. Both the Norman Rockwell image and the current pop culture image are wrong. They don’t exist. One exists in memories shaped by an image on canvas, the other exists in the minds of some consumers shaped by misinformation.

But if you hold this (misperceived) pop culture image, of course you would view the farmer as a villain. And now celebrities are on the anti-meat, anti-large farm bandwagon. Like it or not, they are influencers. Recently, Factory Farming Awareness Coalition posted a video on their website for Meatless Mondays that includes implicit and explicit endorsements from Oprah, President Clinton, and Jessica Simpson. Again, like it or not, these celebrity endorsements are credibility builders.

And of a more immediate environmental regulatory concern, is the August 30th statement by the EPA that they will continue to use flyovers to monitor livestock farms in Iowa. For those who view farmers as environmental villains, this is welcome news.

Producers and processors of our food are not villains nor are they some static image on a canvas. They feed us, and they do so in a manner that is more efficient than in any time in history. Research substantiates this. Two examples are Dr. Jude Capper’s “Comparing the environmental impact in 1944 to 1997” and Dr. Frank Mitloehner’s “The Truth About Sustainability – Debunking “Livestock’s Long Shadow”.

Unfortunately, far too many people (in my opinion), are misinformed, don’t know how to ask critical questions, and are easily persuaded with little evidence. Nevertheless, there is a battle being waged against much of modernity including modern agriculture.

As for the Dragun Corporation, we continue to provide sound scientific input to the agricultural community on matters of environmental science, hydrogeology, geology, and engineering practices. Granted, this is not nearly as sexy as a celebrity endorsement…but a celebrity endorsement is not what you need when you are facing technical or legal challenges.

As always, your questions and comments are welcome.

Alan Hahn

ahahn@dragun.com

The Perception of Environmental Consulting

The sum total of the spoken and unspoken viewpoint of environmental consultants held by many (like it or not) is

 “You can’t trust environmental consultants – once they start an investigation or remediation project it never ends.  And if a regulator suggests an additional scope-of-work, they will simply follow the regulator’s orders.”

…which is what makes a simple, matter-of-fact email we received last week from one of our clients (an attorney), so significant (email excerpted below).

“Here is the signed letter from the (State regulators), concluding activities at (the Site).”

Imagine that, concluding activities. No more soil samples, no more groundwater samples, no more regulator “what ifs”; done.  The barriers to starting a project are limited to a proposal and a willing party to sign a purchase order. The barriers to concluding a project are far more demanding…

“Thank you for all your hard and effective work in assisting me in this…endeavor.”

The truth is hard work is not enough. Hard work that is not focused on the solution will only lead to more billings and additional scopes-of-work (i.e., a waste of time and a waste of money).  Effective work requires understanding the issue(s), understanding the site conditions, understanding the objectives, and the knowledge and expertise needed to develop a clear, concise plan.  It also requires defending your position, whether it is defending it against unreasonable requests of regulators or in the courtroom. 

“Once again, thank you for your assistance. It is always a great pleasure to work with you and your professional team.”

Assistance…not a hindrance, not “make work” busyness, not a check-box mentality – assistance to get the project completed; period.

This wasn’t a complicated project where we had to deal with some exotic chemical with complicated exposure pathways.  It was consulting.  The attorney who retained us has worked with us on some extremely complicated projects over the years.  He knew that regardless of the nature of the project, he could count on us to effectively work toward closure.

It’s worth noting that we were initially retained by the attorney on this project to conduct a peer review…precisely because the previous consultant had lived up to the preconceived perception of consultants. Trust was violated.

Look, we’ve been in business for nearly 25 years now, and we are well aware of the perception issue that permeates our industry.  Whether it is an over-engineered project, inexperienced project managers in over their heads, or a “follow the regulator’s demands” mentality, the unfortunate result is the same – a tarnished industry image.

So we get it – when someone retains us to assist them, we are on trial; we are being asked to prove our worth regardless of any past achievements. In essence, every project is another lying down of the gauntlet…and it’s a challenge we gladly accept.

Your questions and comments are always welcome.

Alan Hahn

ahahn@dragun.com

$12.5 Million FIFRA Fine

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) is not one of those environmental acts/regulations that “rolls off your tongue” with ease.

Unfortunately, Scotts Miracle-Gro has become all too familiar with FIFRA after the September 7, 2012 sentencing in federal district court in Columbus, Ohio.

According to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Scotts pleaded guilty in February 2012 to illegally applying insecticides to its wild bird food products that are toxic to birds, falsifying pesticide registration documents, distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels, and distributing unregistered pesticides.”

Some environmental compliance tips can be found in our Environmental Minute, “Environmental Compliance & Enforcement 2012.”

To read more about the FIFRA fine click here http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/38045218FAA33ABE85257A72006BEF1C

Frustrated with Environmental Remediation Efforts?

…then join us Thursday, October 25th (9 am to 11:30 am) at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing, Michigan for our next environmental remediation seminar. 

This is a fast-paced two-and-a-half hour seminar that will provide you with practical information. You will learn about site characterization and remediation with examples and case studies that show how proper characterization can save you money…in some cases BIG money.  For more information click here http://bit.ly/UfSqLT.

If you are in the London, Ontario area, there is still time to sign up for the September 27th environmental remediation seminar http://bit.ly/Ot4EjX.