Letter: Making sense on clean water

To the Editor:

I would like to thank Sen. Christopher Pearson for his commentary in VTDigger. Sen Pearson, P-D, represents Chittenden County in the Vermont Senate and serves on the Senate Natural Resource & Energy Committee. The commentary is titled: Christopher Pearson: Farmers, money, cows and water quality.

In his commentary, the senator ties together Vermont's degrading water quality, milk prices and farm management practices. This is the first comment I have read about Vermont's degrading water quality that makes sense. There has been hard work and research into the causes and suggested cures to our water contamination problems. From what I have read, the burden is going to be placed on the taxpayers in a big way to mitigate the troubles. The phrase:" all Vermonters have to pay for clean water" has been put out as if it's the mantra of government.

I must admit; the phrase gets under my skin in a nasty way. When I travel upstate to the Lake Champlain area and see the large-scale dairy farms right along the lake it doesn't take much thought as to where most of the phosphorus affecting the lake is coming from. I frequently travel up Rt. 30 through the Mettawee Valley and here farms spread manure right next to the river. It's clear as to where the run-off flows. Senator Pearson says 50 percent of the degrading water is due to conventional dairy farming practices. I don't think he is making this up. So why are all taxpayers expected to pay to have Vermont water cleaner? I know the argument about what the farm economy and overall value farms bring to the state. But so far all I have heard are plans that do not address the main root cause of the problem.

This is not to say that farmers have not changed many of the practices. They have through regulation and a farmer's caring consciousness about what practices would be the best for the land and the water. But over the many years it just does not appear that it's working for our lakes and rivers. So, state officials want to direct more money into different plans instead of coming face to face with the hard reality that dairy farming in Vermont must change if there is going to be cleaner water. Senator Pearson offers a direction that is not the only solution, but it sure makes the most sense that I've heard to date.

Joseph Boutin


Editor's note: Sen. Pearson's commentary appeared in the Banner on Dec. 20.


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