Interview With PA Farmer Ian Brendle: How A Proposed Law Threatens America’s Small Farmers

Brion: Yea, it seems, if it passes, that it could trigger, with no exaggeration, a death knell for the small, local farmer.

Farmer Ian: That’s exactly it. And this is something I can talk about for days and days. It’s one of those things where there’s, I believe, 1,200 pages of legislation [NOTE: The section on produce rules alone clocks in at 547 pages]. What small farmer has the time to sit there and read through 1,200  pages of political jargon. All this stuff about how you’re going to apply manure and how they want you to apply manure. And even this section I was reading the other day, it was really frightening. This section underneath the use of fertilizer and manures. I’m sort of paraphrasing here, but basically it says, ‘human wasted is not supposed to be used unless’—and that’s the part that got me, the unless—’it is approved by EPA regulations’.

I am not shitting you: Pg. 276 of “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption; Proposed Rule,” 2013.

I am not shitting you: Pg. 276 of “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption; Proposed Rule,” 2013.

The way I read it was that there are farms in this country that have been using human waste on their fields because they have passed EPA regulations that allow them to do so. To me, the root of their whole argument for adjusting the use of manure is the introduction of harmful pathogens. It’s very contradictory. They’re trying to minimize the amount of pathogens getting into the food supply, but at the same time, they’re allowing corporations to spread human waste [on their fields] if it passes EPA regulations. [NOTE: sewage is indeed used on some factory or large scale farms].

Brion: Wow, a legal use for human waste. That’s interesting.

Farmer Ian: Their whole argument is to keep pathogens out of the food system. Well, if you’re allowing anyone to spread human waste, that’s the easiest way to make someone sick.

Brion: Let’s talk about the safe use of the [animal] manure that traditional, old school farmers like yourself use.

Farmer Ian: First off, any manure we use–from chickens, horses, or cows–is composted first for at least 3 months. That is a safety measure itself, which breaks down any harmful pathogens. There’s a call to wait a minimum of 45 days before planting or harvesting, along with a gray area that could extend it to a wait of 6-9 months before planting any vegetables. And that’s ridiculous. It only takes approximately  30 days if you do it properly: if you spread the manure, if you dig it in, if you plow it, and you till it. 30 days is all you need for all the harmful pathogens to be neutralized.

Brion: That gray area–you’re talking about the extension in the wait time for planting if “untreated manure” is used.

Farmer Ian: Yeah, but what exactly do they qualify as untreated manure. Does composting it qualify? It doesn’t say. There’s so much ambiguity here.

2 responses to “Interview With PA Farmer Ian Brendle: How A Proposed Law Threatens America’s Small Farmers

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