Ecology, Economy, and Politics of Resource-Extraction Ecosystems

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Readings for Week 9: Dairies in Washington

Tuesday, May 28

The first thing we will do today is go over the paper assignment for the dairy unit.

We will then look at dairy farming issues from a local perspective: Washington State in general and Whatcom County in particular. To inform our conversation, in addition to pulling in relevant material from last week's readings, you should consider the following sources:
  • For an overview of the agricultural region we will be visiting, look at the Whatcom Farm Friends site. Pay particular attention to how the organization approaches the public, and also to how they show their concern with environmental issues.
  • For a more general overview of dairy farming in Washington State as a whole (including the Yakima Valley that you may remember from that now-distant day in mid-April) please see what I would characterize as the more overtly propagandistic Dairy Farmers of Washington site.
  • For a view of the most important (some would say monopolistic) cooperative in Washington, visit the site of Darigold, and for a different cooperative, see the site of Organic Valley.
  • For producer-handler views, see Twin Brook Creamery and Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy, and have a look on Google for stuff about Edaleen Dairy, whose site seems perpetually under construction.
  • For the controversy over rBST or rBGH (same thing; I looked it up in multiple sources), I found the Wikipedia article fairly comprehensive and balanced, but you might also want to look at a very oppositional article from The Center for Food Safety. To get a general idea of this organization's position, you should have a quick look at its position on aquaculture.
  • Finally, though you already have a good idea from last week about the nutrient enrichment problems from dairies, you might want to have a look at a department of Ecology notice about the local manifestations of some of these problems.
Armed with all this web-based knowledge, you should post regarding one or two of the following issues, by 7:00 a.m. on the morning of class. Be sure to set out multiple viewpoints; you may choose to state your own opinion, or we may save that for class discussion:
  • Given the general issues with the environmental impact of milk production, how would you regulate production in Whatcom county to minimize negative environmental impacts?
  • Think about the comparative ecological impacts of dairies and other possible uses of the land, including development--be sure to look at the development rights section on the Farm Friends site.
  • What kinds of appeals do dairy organizations make to the public in order to make a stinky, messy form of resource production seem completely benign to the milk-drinking public? In this context, think of course of Melanie DuPuis's article that you read last week.
  • How do you think that dairies might effect the riverine and estuarine ecology, and potentially the shellfish industry, in coastal areas of Whatcom County?
Class Activities
In class, after we go over the paper assignment, we will discuss these issues.

Thursday, May 30

Depending on how far we get with the discussions of the dairy issues on Tuesday, we will continue or complete discussing the rest of the issues.

Then we will take the questions you have posted for dairy farmers and compile them into a list that everyone can print off and take along on the trip.