Today's front page news is a partnership between Smithfield hog farms and Dominion Power to put plastic bladders over factory farm manure lagoons and pipe the methane off to electric generation. Like too many news articles, it doesn't give enough details to satisfy me, but having witnessed many of these projects in the past, I'll hazard a couple of guesses.
First, this is being touted as an environmental victory. Probably both companies will get wined and dined at some environmentalist gala, receive a plaque, and be lauded for their earth-saving endeavors. Nature Conservancy and Sierra Club will grin ear to ear for this great climatic victory.
Second, because it fits the mindset for tax concessions, you and I as taxpayers will undoubtedly foot a large credit or concession--probably even grants--to defray the costs and help the project pencil out.
I have a couple of questions about this whole thing, the first being: so am I no longer an environmental steward if I raise pigs on pasture and in the woods to fulfill their heritage roll? You see, by fawning over this techno-project, the media, environmentalists, and bureaucrats--the governor will probably get his picture taken with the CEOs of the companies as they lay the first bladder--it demeans those of us who don't start with a factory farm that requires a monster cesspool in the first place.
The second question is what happens to if and when factory farming bites the dust? Whether the public wakes up and quits eating factory pork or whether we run out of enough new generation antibiotics and vaccines to keep the pigs alive in such horrid conditions, what if factory farming becomes obsolete? The only way this works is to start it with a factory farm that concentrates too much manure in too small a place. You have to start it with an anti-ecology paradigm.
This is classic misapplied green washing. We doctor up a sick system with some green lipstick and call ourselves noble. This is hogwash--pun fully intended. I'm not upset because I don't get the recognition; I'm upset about this because it makes people think they're doing much better than they are. This project will not make money without subsidies and fleecing the taxpayers, many of whom abhor the factory farms this helps keep in business.
Meanwhile, those of us out here plodding along with pig-respecting systems in natural settings that democratize the manure into nest-absorbing quantities must compete with subsidized and publicized industrial factory counterparts. The icing on the cake is that those folks have the audacity to call us elitists because our pork prices are higher than theirs. Even food justice advocates point their waggly fingers at farmers like me, calling us uncaring elitists. Where are they when these kinds of projects get the limelight and standing ovations? A flood of letters to the editor from environmentalists should blanket the newspapers. You won't hear a whimper.
The capacity for human stupidity can hardly be fathomed. This is just another case of doing bad and feeling good about it.
Have you visited pigs in a pasture?