If “misery loves company,” the residents of a growing number of North and South Georgia counties aren’t alone. That was obvious at last week’s meeting of the Savannah-Upper Ogeechee Water Council meeting in Elberton. Five attendees presented updates and opinions on the current status of the controversial soil-amendment situation.
County-commission chairmen—Lee Vaughn of Elbert, Sam Moore of Wilkes and Jay Paul of Oglethorpe—along with Tonya Bonitatibus, Savannah Riverkeeper, and Kathleen Bowen, Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG,) led the presentation and discussion.
Opinions were united on multiple fronts:
§ The putrid smell is detrimental to the quality of life.
§ Local government should have more control of what goes on in their counties.
§ As evidenced in the Wilkes County Little River fish kill, there are environmental risks.
§ Self-reporting by the applicators does not satisfy the need to know what is actually being put on or in the soil.
§ “Bad actors” are a major factor in the concern in the stinky controversy.
§ Something needs to be done, without causing a war between farmers and their neighbors.
There was also the opinion that the material—commonly known as sludge—is industrial waste primarily from poultry, pet-food and bakery processing. Therefore, regulation consideration should be given to the state’s Environment Protection Division (EPD) rather than the Georgia Department of Agriculture. The belief is that the EPD
would have more manpower and knowledge to govern/police the soil amendments.
Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla), Georgia’s incoming ag commissioner, was one of the sponsors of the current legislation that provides structure to the soil-amendment law. That means complaints are unlikely to make much headway in his department. Nonetheless, we must strive to find suitable common ground.
We are proud agriculture is Georgia’s No. 1 industry. Why wouldn’t we be?
§ Eggs and bacon for breakfast or on a chilly winter’s night
§ Plates loaded with a variety of vegetables
§ Hamburgers and juicy steaks
§ Apples, pecan pies, peach and blueberry cobblers
§ Watermelons, boiled and roasted peanuts
§ Glasses of cold milk, cream in our coffee and ice cream
§ Fried and grilled chicken
§ Vidalia onions
§ Honey and syrup on buttered biscuits, waffles and pancakes
§ Turkey, pork chops, ham, barbecue and brisket
§ Make your own list.
Makes me hungry and even more grateful for farmers.
And don’t forget the tens of thousands of jobs. We are grateful that Georgia is more than just the Peach State. Agriculture is big, big business, but we don’t need neighbors warring with neighbors.
We live on a farm, surrounded by farms. We love and respect our neighbors. And with those families, we have adopted the motto: “Let there be peace in the valley.”
Let’s leave the Hatfield-and-McCoy-type feuds to the pages of Kentucky history. Somewhere—somehow—we need to find peace in this controversy.