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The Commerce News
October 13, 1999

Tougher Poultry
Regulations Inevitable
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.

Mark Beardsley
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 they mean.
I have a pretty good idea of my skills or lack of skills in most areas.
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 serve.
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 prove otherwise.
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.

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