There are bigger issues confronting the American family farm than an unbuilt oil pipeline from Canada, but a FarmAid activist, appearing on Newsmax TV
Thursday to talk about her organization at 30 years, identified the Keystone XL Pipeline as a definite threat to healthy U.S. food and farming.
A farmer from eastern Montana, Dena Hoff, appeared on "MidPoint" with host Ed Berliner on Thursday to discuss a recent oil spill close to her land, and to explain why she thinks the Keystone XL Pipeline, if constructed, would be a "1,711-mile gash across the heartland of the United States."
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FarmAid Program Director Hilde Steffey mentioned oil transport as one of the many "new threats, left and right" that have family farming on the ropes and shrinking in total acreage as agri-business giants with industrial food production methods take over more of the land.
"We are still losing farmland," Steffey told Berliner. "We're seeing the farmland that we have left consolidated into bigger and bigger farms, and we're also seeing it really difficult for farmers to be able to access farmland."
Steffey said that a new, first-generation of crop of small farmers is coming along and showing real interest in farming as a livelihood. "But they face real challenges at the lending window when it comes to getting the capital and the credit they need to access land," she said.
The news is not all bad. In the three decades since FarmAid was born as an all-star benefit concert, Steffey said that many positive developments have emerged in farming and food production.
America's food supply is in generally good shape, she said, and public consciousness about how food is produced and distributed is growing.
"Consumers — eaters — are getting much more engaged in their food and farm system," she said, "really wanting to know where their food comes from. There are more opportunities through farmer's markets, through community supported agriculture and other draft [farm] markets, for farmers and eaters to connect."
She also dished a few details about the 30th anniversary concert. It will, as always, feature FarmAid founders Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young, and will probably take place in September.
Family farmer Hoff, from Glendive, Mont., (Town motto: "Good people surrounded by Badlands) discussed her opposition to Keystone in detail.
"Most of the people in the area figured that it was going to bring jobs and they were OK with it," said Hoff, who has farmed her property since 1979, adding that Keystone's supporters "have done a really good job of selling it, making people think that this is a jobs issue and in the national interest."
However, she said, "The farmers and ranchers whose land was going to be crossed by the pipeline were not OK with it, especially when we found out that the governor had offered eminent domain to the pipeline company."
Hoff said Keystone won't cross her land but will sit "upriver from where my irrigation water is pumped out of the [Yellowstone] River, and that's a big concern for me."
She said she takes no comfort from assurances that a new pipeline built
to 21st Century safety standards would be less of a risk to rupture — like the decades-old pipeline just beyond the fence where her sheep graze. That one burst in January, spilling an estimated 1,200 gallons of crude.
"To the east, I can see the site where they're working above the spill right from my kitchen window," said Hoff. "I wasn't notified about it at all, as an adjoining land owner, I never found out until I heard a neighbor's son talk about not being able to take a shower because of the oil spill.
"And it wasn't until I got home Sunday night, the day after, and saw the lights and all the vehicles across my fence that I knew exactly where the pipeline break was," she said.
Hoff also offered big-picture opposition to Keystone XL, discussing global warming, U.S. energy independence, and public health in Alberta, Canada, home of the tar sands oil that Keystone would carry to the Gulf of Mexico.
She urged Keystone supporters, including the U.S. senators
who in January voted to approve construction despite a presidential veto threat, to take a longer view.
"I'd tell them to start looking to the seventh generation," said Hoff. "I'd tell them to look at the mess that's been made in the tar sands area of Alberta and all of the cancer and the death and the destruction that's happening there to the ecosystem, to the water, wildlife, to the human beings who live there, and say, 'Is that what you want to support?' "
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