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Farm vs. farm

After the Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc. vs. Hudson court case was finally settled in favor of the Berlin farm family, you would think Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. would be persona non grata in the agricultural community.  Perhaps he is, but the irony of a Baltimore group Civic Works which, among its other ventures, runs what it calls the “Real Food Farm” inviting Kennedy to speak for a fundraiser didn’t escape notice from an Internet-based farmers advocacy group.

In a letter from SaveFarmFamilies.org addressed to ‘major civic leader(s) in the Greater Baltimore area,” the group noted:

…we wanted to make you aware of an event featuring a voice that has been most troublesome in Maryland. It is to our deep disappointment that the Baltimore-area organization, Civic Works, is choosing to honor Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on April 24 at Goucher College. It is unfortunate that a venerable organization seeking to do so much good could honor Mr. Kennedy after he spearheaded an unjust lawsuit to bankrupt a 4th generation Maryland farm family struggling to make ends meet.

The group goes on to quote Governor O’Malley’s letter to University of Maryland Law School, Dean Phoebe Haddon, on the Hudson lawsuit as well as remarks from House Appropriations Committee Chair Delegate Norm Conway regarding $300,000 added to this year’s state budget to help pay the Hudsons’ legal fees. Having Kennedy speak to Civic Works would “tarnish the celebration of its achievements,” concluded the letter, signed by Lee Richardson of Save Farm Families, defendant Alan Hudson, and Herbert Frerichs, Jr. of Perdue Farms.

Included in those who voted for the budget, which featured Conway’s earmark, was Delegate Dana Stein, who serves as Executive Director of Civic Works. And while $300,000 seems like a lot of taxpayer money to reimburse the Hudson family for years of legal issues, it’s worth pointing out that in 2010 (the latest report readily available) Civic Works received $3,062,898 in “government revenue” – over 60 percent of its total intake.

That same report revealed the Real Food Farm produced over 3,000 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables; certainly a boost for local consumers but paling in comparison to poultry grown on the Hudson farm.

While Civic Works is fund raising, Kennedy’s group may face some financial straits of its own. The Hudson family and Perdue Farms are seeking $3 million in reimbursement for legal fees, with one observer noting an award of even one-third of that amount would be “devastating…crippling to the plaintiffs.” Waterkeepers Alliance received around $4.6 million in revenue in FY 2012, according to its report.

The battle between radical environmentalists and family farmers will likely be an ongoing struggle, but the assistance which may be granted to these urban farmers comes from a man seemingly dedicated to returning agriculture to its state decades ago, when farms were far less efficient. As a major agricultural concern, Perdue, which contracts with the Hudson family for raising poultry, states that it’s “committed to environmental stewardship” and dedicated to working with “responsible” environmental groups to allay their concerns, but trying to make an example of a farm family which satisfied its issue with the Maryland Department of the Environment with some minor corrective action would seemingly not fall in that category.

Michael Swartz

Michael Swartz began his writing career with his home website, monoblogue. Since that modest beginning his words have been found on websites such as Red Maryland, Examiner.com, PJ Media, and now here on Watchdog Wire. He's also appeared in newspapers as a former syndicated columnist for Liberty Features Syndicate, and wrote his first book, called So We May Breathe Free: Avoiding Ineptocracy (2012).

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