Cotton not stand­ing up for state wa­ter pro­tec­tion

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - Let­

I can­not ex­press my deep dis­ap­point­ment in Tom Cotton’s vote to roll back the Clean Wa­ter rule, and in his po­si­tion on health care, leav­ing Arkansas’ ru­ral fam­i­lies afraid for their fu­tures.

His de­ci­sions will make Arkansas poorer, less safe for our chil­dren, our health and our wa­ter sup­plies, not to men­tion ef­fects on tourism re­lated ru­ral and re­gional economies.

To re­duce safe­guards for wa­ter that the EPA spent years work­ing to at­tain is purely wrong. I was will­ing to give the se­na­tor a chance to keep his word that he was work­ing for us in ru­ral Arkansas. My liveli­hood and my neigh­bors along the Buf­falo River de­pend on its waters and on Bull Shoals lake (our drink­ing wa­ter source). To di­min­ish reg­u­la­tions to suit “Big Ag” can’t ben­e­fit us. With­out EPA pro­tect­ing our waters, cor­po­rate lob­by­ists with no al­le­giance to Arkansas will con­tinue in­flu­enc­ing and even writ­ing leg­is­la­tion that weak­ens our state.

When we can’t drink the wa­ter, when the Buf­falo River is clot­ted with al­gae, and our tourism busi­nesses are gone, who will ben­e­fit from weak­ened wa­ter rules? Only large agribusi­nesses that lo­cate their own fam­i­lies and head­quar­ters far from the ru­ral waste­lands they cre­ate.

When sen­a­tors turn their backs on their con­stituents, fam­ily farm­ers are driven out. Boone County had only one dairy farm that FFA stu­dents could visit on a field trip this spring. The rest were re­placed by CAFOs that don’t host field trips. Since when can’t a farm fam­ily host fu­ture farm­ers? The un­for­tu­nate an­swer is since the con­cen­tra­tion of an­i­mals in con­fined oper­a­tions re­placed fam­ily farms. Most fam­ily farm­ers are over the age of 60. Their chil­dren can’t com­pete with th­ese huge fac­to­ries. They be­come con­tract la­bor for ver­ti­cal in­te­gra­tion en­ter­prises, own­ing noth­ing but land and a mort­gage. Or, they sell the fam­ily farm and leave home to find jobs.

I ask Sen. Cotton to step up to the plate and start rep­re­sent­ing the real peo­ple of his state. We need clean wa­ter for drink­ing and for the tourism that de­pends on recre­ation. We don’t need dirty waters and re­duced health care. What hap­pened to the wa­ter in Iowa, Illi­nois, Mis­souri and North Carolina as CAFOs re­placed fam­ily farms is fair warn­ing. Non-Amer­i­can takeovers of our ru­ral land threaten Arkansas. How many small fam­ily farms re­main in Mr. Cotton’s own neigh­bor­hood? His is a Her­itage farm with spe­cial des­ig­na­tion be­cause so few are left. Would he like to con­vert to a swine CAFO?

We have to hope he has the in­tegrity to work for us, to care for our chil­dren when they are sick, to en­sure wa­ter fit for them to drink, and to pro­tect the nat­u­ral won­ders of Arkansas that bring tourism that sup­ports our ru­ral liveli­hoods now that most our fam­ily farms are just mem­o­ries. MARTI OLESEN Ponca

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