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October 2011

Endangered Species: Dairy Farmers. How to Save Them? Go Back to Future

Ron and adam holter 023Many of the Chesapeake region’s dairy farms have gone out of business over the last two decades.  In Maryland, for example, 50 percent of the dairies have failed over the last decade, and 90 percent since 1970. Competition from industrial-sized dairies in the West and Midwest have made it hard for small family farms to survive.

The trend has been: get big, or get out.

But on the rolling pastures of a 200-acre farm in Frederick County, Maryland, Ron Holter (above, right) has found a way to keep his fifth-generation dairy business in business.  He is one of about 50 dairy farmers in Maryland that are boosting their profitability by going back in time.

CowsInstead of confining his 100 cows in a steel building and feeding them a corn and protein mash, Ron and the others are taking the seemingly radical step of letting their animals live outside and feed themselves by eating grass.

 “Cows eating grass – ruminants of any kind, eating grass – is the natural way, the God-created way, for these animals to live. They are not created to eat grain,” Holter said, as he tended his cows with his son, Adam, 22, a sixth generation dairyman.  “You care about their welfare because they are living beings.  They are not robots.”

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Blog Contest Comes Howling Back on Halloween

Mobbies badgeThe Maryland Outstanding Blog (or MOBBIES) contest is starting up again on October 31. Last year, the support of loyal readers helped Bay Daily win first place as the best news blog in Maryland.  If you would like to nominate Bay Daily (or any other blogs) this year, visit The Baltimore Sun website.  The voting itself doesn’t begin until Halloween. Read into that ghoulish timing what you will.  From 8 a.m. on Oct. 31 through the contest's end at 5 p.m. on Nov. 10, vote early and often for Bay Daily. (Believe it or not, voting often is legal!  Each reader is allowed to vote once every 24 hours. So please do so.) Tom Pelton

Zoning Issue for Proposed Coal Plant is Tip of Iceberg

BillowingsmokeISTOCKA court hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in southeastern Virginia on a challenge to a rezoning that would allow the construction of the largest coal-fired power plant ever built in the Commonwealth.

It is a worthy issue, this challenge by residents of Surry County, Virginia, to the public hearing process that led to the town of Dendron’s rezoning of land for the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative’s (ODEC) proposed 1,500 megawatt power plant.  The lawsuit raises important concerns about the transparency of government to its citizens

But equally worthy of consideration is the damage to the environment and human health across the Chesapeake Bay region that would be inflicted if the proposed ODEC power plant is built.

A report by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation concluded that air pollution from the plant is projected to cause an estimated 26 premature deaths each year, as well as 40 heart attacks, 442 asthma attacks, 16 cases of chronic bronchitis, 23 asthma-related emergency room visits, 3,340 lost work days, and 19,903 days annually in which people will have to reduce their activities because they are sick.

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Voters Want Clean Air; Congress Not So Much

Power plant
With up to a third of pollution causing problems in the Chesapeake Bay coming from the air, reducing the mercury, soot, and other harmful chemicals spewing from smokestacks around the region has become a key part of restoring the Bay and protecting public health.

That’s why the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other groups oppose new coal-fired power plants like the one proposed in Surry County, Va., by the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative. Such plants will only add additional mercury, soot, nitrogen, smog, and greenhouse gas pollution to ecosystems already severely stressed.

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Federal Judge Allows Intervention in Lawsuit over Bay Pollution "Diet"

RiverA federal court judge today announced good news for advocates of clean water in the Chesapeake Bay region.  Judge Sylvia Rambo, of the federal court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, decided to allow the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and its allies to intervene in a legal action seeking to protect federal and state pollution limits (the so-called Bay pollution "diet" or Total Maximum Daily Load), which have been challenged by the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Association of Home Builders and other industry lobbying organizations. 

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Poll: Majority Willing to Pay More for Wind Energy

TurbineWould you be willing to pay more for electricity generated by wind?

A new poll finds that 62 percent of Maryland residents back the construction of offshore wind turbines and would be willing to pay an extra $2 per month on their electric bills to help pay for this clean energy, according to a survey by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies that was paid for by environmental organizations.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley this past spring introduced legislation that would have encouraged the construction of wind farms by requiring power companies to buy electricity from them, and some type of action on this front is likely to return next session.

"I am particularly encouraged by our citizens’ willingness to pay a little bit more for offshore wind power in the short-term, in order to build a more sustainable energy generation system that will bring benefits to our State for generations to come,” O’Malley said.

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Duck Populations Soar to Record Highs, Organization Reports

MallardfwsWith duck hunting season opening in Maryland on Saturday, the Chesapeake Bay region may see large numbers of waterfowl. You don’t have to be a hunter to appreciate the good news that a signature of Chesapeake wildlife is benefitting from rising populations.

Duck populations have soared to “record highs” this year, based on numbers provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to a report by Ducks Unlimited.

Why?  Heavy rain across the upper Midwest and Canada this spring produced extensive ponds and wetlands that are necessary for the breeding of ducks that migrate southward toward the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere.

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Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race Begins This Week

Schooners Sea shanties. Tall tales of the high seas.  Schooners racing the length of the Chesapeake Bay for glory and charity.

These are ingredients of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, which begins at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Bay Bridge near Annapolis and concludes on Friday in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Funds raised by the event will benefit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s education programs, which teach future generations about the importance of protecting our natural resources and restoring water quality in the nation’s largest estuary.  

Tomorrow (Tuesday, October 11) the festivities start in Baltimore.  A 5 p.m. fundraiser at J.D. Smokehouse at 3000 O’Donnell Street will include a walking tour of historic Canton, the singing of sea chanteys at select bars, storytelling and more.

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EE: A Sharp Arrow in the Bay Restoration Quiver

 Kids toss crabpot 
Bay Daily readers are familiar with TMDLs, WIPs, EPA, and other acronyms related to Chesapeake Bay restoration. Well, throw another one into the alphabet soup: EE, or environmental education.

Environmental education for our young people is one of the keys to restoring the Bay – indeed, to protecting natural resources generally. After all, how can we expect our future leaders, voters, consumers, and homeowners to be prudent stewards of the environment unless we teach them? Isn’t a fundamental understanding of the natural world and how we as human beings relate to it as important as math, literature, and science?

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DC Must Stop 100,000 Pounds of Trash From Flushing into River

Trash EPA has approved a new permit for the District of Columbia meant to reduce stormwater runoff pollution into the Anacostia and Potomac rivers, Chesapeake Bay tributaries.

The new permit is an improvement for water quality, and will require that the city add at least 350,000 new square feet of green roofs on city properties, stop 100,000 pounds of trash per year from being washed into Anacostia River, and plant at least 4,150 trees a year, according to EPA. It also sets stringent new pollution control standards for new development projects in the city.

But the permit is not as strong as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other clean water advocates would have liked.  The new permit does not have very aggressive requirements for planting vegetation that  can act as filters for runoff, or for requiring that stormwater control efforts meet local water quality standards.

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