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Sunday, May 12, 2013
Bags are ruining crops and harming livestock
It’s bad enough that plastic bags scattered across a farm field ruin the bucolic view of Virginia’s farmland. But what farmers strongly object to is that they pose a threat to their animals and machinery.
Livestock have died after ingesting plastic bags they find in fields, and thousands of dollars of damage has been done to farm equipment. In addition to the damaged equipment, plastic bags pose a safety hazard to farmers who are trying to remove them from the machinery.
Additionally, for the state’s cotton producers, the plastic bags create an economic problem when they get caught in cotton balers and go unnoticed at the gin. The plastic gets shredded into cotton fiber and is not found until finished textiles are inspected. Plastic particles won’t take a fabric dye and leave a white streak. The cloth ends up useless, and a farmers’ ability to sell more cotton is jeopardized.
All of these problems are easily remedied by using alternatives to plastic bags.
That’s why the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s members approved a policy supporting legislation that would encourage all retailers to use paper or reusable bags.
Virginia Farm Bureau producer members have supported proposed legislation sponsored by Del. Onzlee Ware, D-Roanoke, in the past. That, and similar legislation sponsored by Del. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, and Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, called for a tax on consumers who opt to use plastic bags. Stores imposing the tax would keep a percentage, and the rest of the money would go into the Virginia Water Quality Improvement Fund.
The fact that legislators from three diverse areas of the state support the tax indicates statewide concern about plastic bags. Unfortunately, that legislation was defeated.
Farm Bureau policy also supports enforcement of existing litter laws, which classify disposing of trash on public or private property as a misdemeanor, punishable by jail time up to 12 months and fines of up to $2,500. The state’s largest agriculture advocacy organization also supports increased penalties for littering.
The problem is, plastic retail bags are nearly weightless and can travel great distances. So trying to determine who has littered is virtually impossible.
It is sometimes unintentional littering, but plastic bags still cause problems for virtually every kind of farmer. And in today’s reduce-reuse-recycle world, it’s time to pursue options other than plastic bags.
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