The power of working together - Feb. 2013
One of the benefits we in organizations always tell potential members or current members about is the power that we have by joining together to work on problems. We've all heard the sayings like “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Simple logic dictates that folks who work together will be able to accomplish more than trying to do it alone, but still we sometimes like to avoid the issues of coming together.
In 2011, many state Farm Bureaus were contacted by the President of the Maryland Farm Bureau about an effort by a factory fundraising environmental group. The environmental group was suing a young couple who were running a poultry operation. In the eyes of the environmental group, this couple was guilty, because they sold their birds to Perdue.
The environmental group attempted to get the Maryland Department of Environment to prosecute the couple for violation of their water permit. The Department declined after an investigation showed the allegations did not occur. This still did not satisfy the group which then sought to expand the suit to include the purchaser of the bird as a guilty party under the concept of a co-permit.
The legal costs were estimated to be upwards of $100,000; an amount that would put the family operation out of business. However, because of efforts nation-wide through Farm Bureau many states sent money to the Maryland Farm Bureau's legal fund to help the couple. Wyoming Farm Bureau was among the states supporting the legal fund and recently we learned the court rejected the environmental group's suit and found in favor of the young couple.
Given the ease with which environmental groups can raise money I don't expect this type of legal action on their part to stop. When I hear them profess to be for the family farmer their statements ring hollow indeed when you see them suing young farm couples because they don't like the company to whom they sell their product.
This case shows that when we in agriculture all pull together we can help defeat those anti-agriculture groups who seek to use environmental laws to bankrupt operations through lawsuits using false allegations.
By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President