6 responses to Controversies over Amish manure and aching backs
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    Comment on Controversies over Amish manure and aching backs (June 10th, 2010 at 14:52)

    I can weigh in again on this – I lived in Maryland and raised sheep in Maine and New Brunswick. There were few barriers between fields and waterways on Chesapeake Bay just a few years ago; I noted back then that corn farmers were polluting the watershed as well as promoting erosion. None of those farmers were Amish. Unless animal waste in controlled or if it is controlled without much forethought, waterways and ground water will be polluted. A little effluent won’t harm a healthy river, but most rivers aren’t very healthy in the eastern United States. For years we’ve been told to “get them cows out of that stream!” In other words, fence off the pasture from the water, and use a ram (a hydraulic pump) to move drinking water up to the animals. The small ruminants, sheep and goats, tend to be quite fastidious about their drinking water, and don’t tear up the banks as much. Cattle and horses, especially cattle, are less discriminating and cattle hooves are really hard on soft ground. I agree with you – with education and some incentive to manage waste better, I’m sure the Amish (and others) will get with the programme.

    But is part of the issue that Amish and other old-fashioned farmers spread fresh manure on their fields? There’s nothing better for building soil, but if it hasn’t been composted at all there can be pollution if there’s a heavy rain. So are the fertilizer companies somehow involved in all this?

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    Comment on Controversies over Amish manure and aching backs (June 10th, 2010 at 23:08)

    Growing up in the cornfields of Indiana, I always wondered where all the corn went. Fence rows were wiped out and livestock liquidated to make bigger corn/soybean fields. After living in Lebanon and Lancaster (current home) counties, I know now.
    It seems the logistics of shipping grain from the Midwest to the seaboard is better than shipping the meat. Hence, you have Midwest grain shipped to the seaboard , which is fed to oodles of livestock(in Lebanon County, we had about 10 huge hog or chicken barns within a mile of our house; here near Terre Hill it is more dairy), which have an output that has to be disposed of. It’s good for the soil!
    That means that the grain fields of the Midwest are not getting the “feedback” of the manure, and Lancaster County gets more than normal. What will the results of all that be in a century?
    Who knows, but I wonder if the Midwest farmers will regret it down the road.

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    Matt from CT
    Comment on Controversies over Amish manure and aching backs (June 12th, 2010 at 00:44)

    >So are the fertilizer companies somehow involved in all this?

    This reply actually ties into both Mike & Magdalena’s posts.

    I don’t think the fertilizer companies are behind this.

    Farmers in Canada (at least Ontario) have for many years already been made to comply with clean water laws regarding nutrient management. It’s now coming to the U.S.

    If you look at the New Jersey-sized “dead zone” at the mouth of the Mississippi, you can trace most of that up river to Iowa and Illinois and other corn belt counties.

    Farmers for years have “tiled” their fields. Tiling being the name that originated back when these were clay tile pipes, similar to the “tiles” used to line chimneys. Today it’s mostly corrugated plastic pipe that comes on large spools, but it’s still called tile.

    Tiling land accomplishes two important things from an agronomic point of view:

    1) It drains the soil so planting can begin earlier in the year;

    2) It lowers the ground water table so once you plant corn has to send roots deep (at least to the level of the tiles) to get water.

    That’s important because the corn is then more resistant to summer time dry spells, with good deep root systems.

    There’s a couple drawbacks, though.

    One is it contributes to the ever increasing river floods. Less of the soil acts as a sponge as tiles and drainage ditches move the water quickly to the rivers. To the north especially, this is part of the reason the Red River of the North keeps setting record floods as more and more land is tiled in recent years.

    Second, when rain falls just after fertilizing it allows the nitrogen and other fertilizers to be leached out and rapidly carried off the land, which ends up eventually at the mouth of the Mississippi (or the Great Lakes, or Lake Winnipeg, depending on which watershed you’re in).

    In wet years this can become very significant as farmers will repeatedly re-apply fertilizers just to watch another big rain storm develop a few days later and leach it away again.

    The permanent algae bloom that is feeding on these fertilizers is what creates the dead zone. The Chesapeake is, rightfully, a higher priority right now but the fertilizer companies have to expect that the EPA will soon be going after the “dead zone” and that becomes a big issue…especially in what is the increasingly monoculture corn belt where farmers depend on big production of a subsidized crop to survive, and that crop in turn depends on well drained fields and copious amounts of synthetic fertilizer to produce the needed yields.

    And if you think the “dead zone” is bad enough, read this: http://deliberatewanderer.blogspot.com/2006/04/blue-baby-alert.html

    Eventually this has to look towards the fertilizer companies and reducing the amount of fertilizer being applied. (Anyone want to bet deep down in the bowels of Monsanto they’re already trying to create a corn plant that is also a legume capable of supporting nitrogen fixing bacteria?)

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    Comment on Controversies over Amish manure and aching backs (June 12th, 2010 at 01:13)

    I predict that government assistance will do far more harm to Amish farmers than the regulation of manure and runoff will do.

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    Comment on Controversies over Amish manure and aching backs (June 13th, 2010 at 16:26)

    I want to join the Amish, but I am still paying a mortgage on a home I can’t sell… What can I do?

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    Comment on Controversies over Amish manure and aching backs (June 13th, 2010 at 21:12)

    Follow what the Lord asks of you to do, Diana, if you are lead to lead an Amish-like lifestyle you can even do so, most likely, in the house you have a mortgage on. Pray, read the Bible, be plain of dress if you are lead to. Be open and joyful to the wishes of the Lord in your life.
    I’m not really Amish, but I do respect their ways, and try in my small ways try to be similar..

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