Communication about Bay is vital (Editorial)

(Oct. 27, 2015) The news release arrived with this intriguing headline: “Can Food Production and a Clean Chesapeake Bay Coexist?”
That’s a question which has been begging for an answer through all of the fledgling years of the 21st century.
In large measure, it has pitted farmers against the well-heeled environmental activist community, with the farmers contending that they are doing their share — and in some instances, more than their share — in restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay and the environmentalists consistently responding that it is not enough.
Food crop production has been fine tuned with technological advances which dramatically reduce its impact on the Bay and even the traditional use of poultry litter as fertilizer is being limited — and in some cases banned — to prevent its phosphorous from leaking into the Bay waters.
Now, indeed, as the Bay’s health notably improves — reports persist of the return of the Bay grasses — there emerges the effort to seek an answer to the question of whether food production and a clean Bay can co-exist.
Let’s talk about it. A group of organizations whose mission is the restoration of the Bay have put together an impressive panel of farmers, environmentalists and the public to seek an answer — or, perhaps, answers — to the question.
Under the moderation of former First District Congressman Wayne Gilcrest, they will gather at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Nov. 19, in the Gibson Center for the Arts at Washington College in Chestertown, Md.
The event is free and open to the public. The discussion will be driven by questions from the audience.
The news release, posted by the Chester River Association, posted the challenge.
“We all want clean water and vibrant rivers. We all need food to survive, but farming practices are often blamed for the deterioration of the Chesapeake Bay. Can we have both?”
The agricultural perspective will be represented by Sean Jones, a dairy farmer in Massey, Md., Trey Hill, a row crop farmer in Rock Hall, Md., and Mike Twining, a representative with Willard Agri-Service.
The environmental perspective will be provided by Kim Coble, a vice president of Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Jeff Horstman, Miles-Wye Riverkeeper in Easton, Md.
Judy Denver, a hydrologist with the United States Geological Survey, will explain the findings of recent scientific studies of nutrient movement through our groundwater.
This event will be co-hosted by the Sassafras River Association and the Chester River Association in coordination with the Center for Environment & Society at Washington College.
Can food production and a clean Chesapeake Bay co-exist?
Of course, they must. There can be no answer other than “yes.”
And we are delighted that both sides are seriously talking about it.