Buy Milk to Save the Chesapeake
This month, a new "Chesapeake Milk" label appeared on the racks at 17 Fresh Fields/Whole Food Markets in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia. No different from conventional milk, Chesapeake costs a nickel more a half-gallon. Plans call for every penny of that nickel to go directly back to eastern Pennsylvania dairy farmers to enhance their environmental management and reduce the amounts of barnyard runoff (containing phosphorous, nitrogen, and other pollutants) flowing from their farms down the Susquehanna River into the Bay.
Managed by the Dairy Network Partnership, the Chesapeake Milk program is a joint venture of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Rodale Institute, the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Pennsylvania State University, and the EPA. In contrast to tax-based programs that seek to control pollution by targeting the worst offenders, the Dairy Network Partnership's voluntary contributions will reward farmers already trying hard to improve their environmental performance. To qualify for the premium, a farm must achieve a high overall score on a "farmstead evaluation" using criteria developed at Penn State. Once in, the owner of an average size farm with a herd of 60-75 cows can expect to receive about $7500 a year from the program.
"The farmers are thrilled," says project director Lori Sandman. Wrote Baltimore Sun columnist Tom Horton: "It's an opportunity for all those who ever asked, ‘How can I help the bay?' to put their money where their mouth is." Said the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Pennsylvania director Jolene Chinchilli at the Fresh Fields launch event: "If our more traditional efforts to combat pollution are consistent with and supported by new signals received from the marketplace, I believe we'll be amazed with the results."
The partnership will not tally sales results until the end of the first quarter 1999. Already, however, Sandman reports complaints from consumers that Chesapeake Milk had sold out at the local store. Horton suggests that a "Chesapeake Chicken" label be developed to pay bonuses to conscientious poultry farmers concentrated on the Chesapeake's eastern shore. Up next: "Pamlico Pork Sausages?" URL for Sandman: www.equinitiative.com. Tel. (610) 683-1476