Letter to the Pilot

Monday, April 1, 2002

Waterkeeper intimidation

Attorneys, animal welfare activists, fishermen and religious and labor leaders will gather Friday, April 5, at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. They're members of Waterkeeper Alliance and they say they're coming to Iowa to spotlight the way livestock producers are destroying the environment. While the group's activists are sure to make headlines, Iowa farmers won't be intimidated.

The New York-based activist group, led by its president Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., is a self-described umbrella organization for more than 80 Waterkeeper programs located throughout North and Central America. The group boasts an annual income of more than $500,000, thanks to donations from Ted Turner and Hollywood elite, including Jane Seymour and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

To date Waterkeeper's work has focused on the nation's bays and shorelines. But their attention and anger is now shifting inland toward livestock producers. Their Clear Lake "Hog Summit" is a prime example. The one-day event is intended to give organizers a platform to make reckless claims that hog producers are polluting the nation's water supplies. The end result: to take producers to court - and win.

The effort is well underway, with lawsuits filed in North Carolina, Missouri and Florida. Kennedy has already recruited a "dream team" of lawyers from 15 national law firms, with each committing $50,000 to the effort. This ante, says CCF, is "pocket change when compared to the size of the awards these lawyers are hoping for." Kennedy has estimated potential damages against the pork industry at more than $9 billion and said on National Public Radio that he has the attorneys and money necessary "to put an end to the industry."

Waterkeeper is not interested in working with producers to enhance environmental quality. Their real agenda is to strong-arm farmers out of business using high-powered attorneys with deep pockets. And if you think the group's efforts will stop there, think again. "We're going to start with hogs," said Kennedy in a December 6, 2000, interview. "After we get done with the hogs, then we're gonna' go after the other ones."

The overwhelming majority of Iowa's farm families are environmental stewards. Iowans should be outraged by the group's arrogance and deny them the attention they so desperately crave April 5.

Aaron Putze,

Iowa Farm Bureau