The Commerce News
October 13, 1999
Poultry growers who believe agriculture
is not a cause of water pollution suffer a serious case of denial,
but that appeared to be the situation last Tuesday night when
poultry growers met with state politicians and regulatory officials
to discuss upcoming regulations relating to the disposal of dead
birds and poultry litter.
It is likely that the vast majority of poultry growers are responsible
stewards of their environment. They protect both their land and
nearby streams or lakes from contamination to the best of their
ability. But in any group, there are those who are irresponsible.
Farmers are no exception, and because there are a few bad stewards,
poultry farmers face regulations governing farm practices.
Basically, farmers learned that they will be required to do what
most of them have been doing all along; only now they will have
to document their practices. For the vast majority of poultry
growers, that means they must document that they keep their chicken
litter covered so rain cannot wash it toward streams and they
must monitor the phosphorus and nitrate levels of the fields
on which the litter is applied.
Chicken litter is not a toxic waste. It is a fine organic fertilizer
that has made Jackson County one of the state's top cattle producers.
It is incredibly beneficial to the soil. When it enters the state's
waterways, however, it causes so much plant growth that when
the plants die they use up all of the oxygen in the decaying
process, causing fish to suffocate.
Agriculture is changing. For farmers to survive, they must have
larger operations. Larger farms generate more wastes, creating
greater potential for large-scale pollution. The state and federal
environmental agencies would be remiss if they did not keep an
eye out for the potential of agricultural pollution. Government
and industry face similar scrutiny. The Environmental Protection
Agency is forcing states to better enforce the Clean Water Act.
As a result, the Environmental Protection Division has increased
standards for the water quality of streams and rivers, which
makes all waste treatment much more expensive.
Litter becomes a problem when a poultry grower has no crops (including
pasture) upon which to put it, or not enough land to safely absorb
all the litter. It is significant that while some poultry spreading
companies have waiting lists for people desiring litter, some
farmers complain that they have no way to dispose of all the
litter they generate; if the two groups can get together, a major
problem can be solved.
Farmers feel like scapegoats for the state's water quality programs.
They know that the city of Atlanta continues to be the state's
greatest water polluter, and they know that storm water runoff
and millions of septic tanks also contribute. Most farmers qualify
as environmentalists for the way they treat their land, but as
long as their operations pose a potential threat to the state's
waters, they can expect and should expect to have their operations
regulated. New regulations may be a burden to the farmers who
are good stewards, but they are needed to protect the public
from the bad stewards, whose practices are the very reason those
regulations are being proposed.
The Commerce News
October 13, 1999
The View From The Editor's Desk
Content To Be A Follower
Most Of The Time
One of the processes of maturing is learning to recognize your
strengths and weaknesses. This sounds so simple, but ego can
prevent us from admitting to ourselves, much less anyone else,
that someone else can do a particular job better or that someone
else would provide superior leadership.
Sports broadcasters refer to this when they suggest a player
"stayed within himself." At least I think that's what
I have a pretty good idea of my skills or lack of skills in most
When I served on the Commerce Civic Center and Tourism Authority,
I begged the other members not to make me treasurer. I have never
balanced a checkbook; Barbara does all that. I think my performance
as treasurer over the next two or three years vindicated my position.
I left the authority at the end of my term rather than imperil
its bank account further.
I was reminded of this at a church work day Saturday morning.
We were to plant a hundred shrubs around the recently refurbished
Family Fellowship Center. Upon arrival, I found someone had already
pre-dug the holes with a tractor (that was a relief). Someone
had determined where each plant should go. All pertinent decisions
had been made, so all I had to do was put some of the plants
in the holes and put dirt around them.
There was other work too, the forming of wooden borders for the
beds, and something I never understood on the far side of the
building that required a tractor and tons of gravel and people
who knew what they were doing.
I understood the situation. I'm labor, not management. Anyone
there could have led, except me. I was suited for following.
While my back can take only so much physical labor, the spirit
is willing as long as there is some clearly defined role within
my limited capabilities. You can't get much more clearly defined
than sticking plants in the holes and covering the roots with
soil, and perfect placement and perfect selection mean little
if someone doesn't actually plant them.
Had the job been to write a story about the event, I would have
surged to the lead, for writing about what others do seems to
be my strength, such as it is. Or, had there been a need for
someone to find fault with the work, I would have been eminently
qualified as a critic.
I could not offer myself for public office, because I know I
would not be a good city councilman, county commissioner or president.
If I am nominated, I will not accept, and if elected, will not
It amazes me to see people running for elected office who are
clearly not qualified. I cannot imagine standing up in public
to tell people I am a superior candidate to someone else. But
you have to have enough ego to seek elected office to be able
to do just that, preferably with a straight face.
My philosophy is just the opposite. I would rather feel inept
and be pleasantly surprised on the few occasions when circumstances
There are times when one must step forward and lead just because
no one else will. But there are more often times when it is better
to let the qualified people lead and be content to follow them.
Knowing which is which is the secret.