Farm animal suffering
I applaud the editorial, “A Chicken’s Life,” (BDN, April 11-12) calling for better state regulation of standards for farm animals. Many people do not realize that the primary federal and state laws outlawing animal cruelty simply exempt farm animals. Public unwillingness to tolerate farm animal suffering (once they know about it) was stated forcefully by the passage of California Proposition 2 in November, outlawing three of the cruelest farm practices, including confining hens in battery cages like those at Quality Egg and other Maine producers.
A forum at Husson University on Thursday, April 16, will address these issues and a similar bill, LD 1021, which is now before the Maine Legislature. Speakers will include Don Hoenig, the state veterinarian, Katie Lisnik, director of the Humane Society of Maine and religious leaders from various traditions. More information and online registration for the forum can be found at www.husson.edu/symposium.
Bring back grain
Thank you for the educational article “Hood drops more organic dairy farms” of April 6. We, the people, must be informed about the costs associated with the production of our food. As we become better educated, we can have confidence in the value returned for our food dollars.
Consumers should know, too, that the greatest farmer-borne cost to producing milk in Maine is the price of feed. The majority of grain supplying our Maine dairies (organic and conventional) is shipped from our western producers at great expense, the price fluctuating with the price of fuel and trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. This creates a situation where the primary cost of running a Maine dairy is unpredictable from year to year.
One way to address the problem is to revitalize our dormant grain economy in New England. Producing more of our own livestock feed can reduce costs. Markets for food quality Maine grains such as wheat, oats, soybeans and spelt will develop as our knowledge of growing them improves and they are rotated into the mix on our farms.
Working relationships have developed between UMaine Extension, MOFGA, The Kneading Conference, Heart of Maine, Northern Grain Growers Association, millers, bakers, landowners and dairy farmers from around New England with the goal of making our region self-sufficient in grain production once again.
Grains are the foundation of Maine’s food pyramid. It is time we made them local once again.
Hybrids and ethanol
I bought a hybrid car trying to get the best mileage possible and to reduce my greenhouse gas emissions. I was getting 50 mpg. With the onset of winter, I expected my gas mileage to drop, and it did a little. This winter, the drop was dramatic (I now get 42.5 mpg), and I heard about ethanol being added to gasoline. My dealer told me that Toyota has estimated that its hybrids are losing about 15 percent mileage with the 10 percent ethanol gasoline.
Do you know how infuriating it is to know you’ve done your best to get good mileage, drive “clean,” and then be sabotaged by the oil companies? But it’s worse. Ethanol absorbs water, which can cause condensation in your gas tank.
Over time, condensation can build up and cause phase separation, which can cause rusting of your gas tank and form ethanol sludge, which can clog your fuel lines. This information comes from a Toyota newsletter.
To say I’m furious understates it. No one asked us if we wanted ethanol-blended gas. Why are we doing this when it both damages vehicles and reduces gas mileage? The obvious answer is that someone is making a buck.
LD 1320, “An Act to Ensure the Availability of Alcohol-Free Motor Fuels,” is now in the Legislature. It will require distributors to offer nonethanol-blended gasoline. This bill deserves the support of anyone who owns a vehicle. It certainly has my support.
I have been a longtime reader of your paper and would like to take this opportunity to let you know that I appreciate the all-around quality of your newspaper. For a small market newspaper you have great international and national coverage along with excellent state and local reporting. I appreciate your special articles on varied topics such as science, art and industry. Your photos and illustrations are also top notch.
Thanks for being such a great paper. Your readers are very fortunate.
I read with interest Diana Georgia Chapin’s April 16 OpEd regarding labeling of genetically engineered, or GE, foods. Reading it reminded me of how often I had signed petitions to state legislators asking for their support in mandating labels on GD foods. If these petitions had good outcomes, I wouldn’t be writing this.
About a dozen years ago when I was attending meetings of the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, a biotech company was petitioning the board for approval to sell Bt sweet corn seed in Maine. The seed, as mentioned in Chapin’s piece, is marketed as “insect protected” to kill the European corn borer. During the petitioning process a board member asked the biotech representative whether the European corn borer had been found in Maine. The answer was no.
The board turned them down, as it should. Now that the board has approved Bt sweet corn seed in Maine, can we assume the European corn borer has arrived?
Companies that sell GE seeds are all too eager to bring their products to market with a less than perfect track record of good science and data behind them. Europeans have demanded and succeeded in getting GE foods labeled. We deserve the same, however, our legislators don’t have the backbone to do the right thing.