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Sunday, May 19, 2013
A single discarded bag can wreak havoc on a farm
Members of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest agricultural advocacy group, support legislation encouraging retailers to use paper or reusable shopping bags to reduce the problems litter from plastic bags cause farmers.
Jodi Roth argues that plastic bag litter accounts for only 0.6 percent of litter and 0.5 percent of the solid-waste stream. The damages a single discarded bag can wreak on a farm, however, outstrip those percentages.
Virginia farmers and foresters contribute $79 billion annually to the state’s economy and provide more than 500,000 jobs. Why would anyone endorse the use of an item that can potentially harm the state’s largest industry?
Plastic bags in farm fields have killed cattle. Beef cattle are Virginia’s second largest agricultural commodity — generating $373 million in cash receipts for the state’s economy in 2010. Plastic bags also damage equipment and pose safety hazards to farmers who try to remove them from machinery.
For Virginia cotton growers, who contributed $51 million to Virginia’s economy in 2010, plastic bags create a serious economic problem. The plastic from bags in cotton fields gets shredded as cotton is picked and ultimately renders finished textiles useless. Mills don’t want to buy cotton from farms where plastic is mixed into the fiber.
Paper bags are biodegradable and don’t cause the same problems if they end up in farm fields. And when timber — a renewable resource — is harvested for paper, foresters plant more trees.
Increased use of paper or reusable shopping bags will reduce farm damages caused by plastic bags and help keep the state’s agriculture industry strong.
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