Note: Jean Hay Bright has been farming and gardening organically for more than 30 years. She has been the owner/operator of two commercial organic farms, in Blue Hill at Hay's Farmstand during the 1980s and early 1990s, and since 1999 at BrightBerry Farm in Dixmont. A longstanding member of MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association), Jean served on its board of directors in the late 1980s.
I'm running for the U.S. Senate to make our nation more secure by ensuring food independence. True homeland security requires the regional ability to feed ourselves. With the continuing high cost of fuel, we need to promote dispersed, diversified farms and their support industries such as processing facilities. A decentralized agriculture also diminishes the possibility or impact of deliberate sabotage.
I'm running to ensure a healthy environment -- clean air, clean water, clean land -- essential for the preservation of the planet and all living things on it. We must also recognize the threats to our natural environment, and to the sustainability and viability of our diverse seed banks, posed by genetically-modified crops.
I favor, at a bare minimum, the labeling of GMO foods at the retail level so people can opt-out of this great unregulated experiment, if they so choose. Also, we need more research, to determine long-term effects on people and on the environment, from these altered plants and animals.
A National 10-year Goal of Energy Self-Sufficiency through Renewable Resources
I have advocated in my campaign a national goal of energy self-sufficiency through renewable resources -- solar, wind, tidal, hydro, geo-thermal, and fuels such as bio-diesel, ethanol, and others made from annual crops or trees. It would clean the air, provide an economic resurgence building and servicing this new energy infrastructure, and it would change foreign policy by eliminating the need for foreign oil.
Farmers clearly need to be an integral part of this effort. My plan would create new revenue streams for farmers producing renewable energy, and using different techniques and crops to absorb global warming pollution. (A dairy farm near here is putting up a windmill in one of the fields that has only a 15-square-foot base, having a negligible affect on the use of that field for agriculture.) And many farmers, such as Maine's potato growers, are always open to rotational crops that produce a good income.
If our nation was not dependent on foreign oil, foreign policy would change dramatically. That is what is so exciting about my plan for energy self-sufficiency through renewable resources. It's a win, win, win situation -- cleaner air, an economic engine building and maintaining a new energy infrastructure, and a major shift in foreign policy.
Global warming and energy conservation
We have only one environment, we need to protect it. (I've been an organic farmer for several decades.) We need to respect the science on this, and do more of it, so we know what we're dealing with. This is another area where the United States, under the current administration, has been woefully inadequate.
We should have signed the Kyoto Climate Change treaty long ago. We should be actively working with other nations to clean up the air we all share, and stabilize the deteriorating conditions that will end up killing us all.
I support a proposal requiring standard cars and light trucks to meet a 40 mpg standard. But 40 MPG is not enough. Technology exists for higher ratings. And the ultimate vehicle would be an electric car that can be recharged from solar panels or a windmill in the back yard. (We are looking into solar tractors, which already exist, that are powered by solar panels in the roof of the cab, and include heavy batteries that are an asset in farming.)
Pollution standards in industry should be tightened and strictly enforced. All such plants should be retired as soon as possible, with their energy production coming from renewable resources. A recent study in Maine showed that a few well-placed windmill farms could easily provide all the energy needs for Maine. This is definitely do-able.
Government at all levels should promote energy efficient technologies, particularly by becoming a good example -- in public buildings, for instance. Beyond that, public information and promotion is good, tighter building codes should be implemented, and other efforts should be tried before government subsidies are offered.
Energy subsidies – Yes renewable, No to nuclear, oil, gas, coal
I am open to the idea of federal subsidies for renewable energy production, if the market forces do not provide enough impetus in this direction. I have been encouraged by the interest in this direction in the past year as a result of the surge in gasoline prices.
As for oil, gas, coal, and nuclear, I oppose federal subsidies for these industries, and would like to see the current subsidies abolished.
I support windfall profits tax on oil companies, as well as making them pay more of their fair share of regular corporate taxes. I also support funding for research and development of renewable energy, energy efficiency and mass transit initiatives. But I would caution against linking the two, because if the research into renewable energy is successful, there will be less and less, and eventually no, windfall profits to tax.
I am opposed to the granting of drilling rights in fragile locations, such as the Artic National Wildlife Refuge. With global warming, places like ANWR will not be in permafrost long. I shudder to think of oil rig infrastructure collapsing in that environment when, in a few years, the rigid ground thaws and turns to spongy bog. These fragile wild places need to be protected from the likes of us.
I am opposed to expansion of nuclear power in the United States. Even if the technology has advanced to the point that we do not face a melt-down or explosion from within (as in Chernobyl), the huge plants present too much of a terrorist target, which could result in the same devastating spread of radioactivity. Also, we still have the problems associated with the mining of uranium, and the disposal of radioactive waste, as well as the contamination from depleted uranium ordnance.
The chemical/agriculture companies assure us that enough studies have been done to guarantee our safety. Yet they don't want to tell us which of their laboratory miracles might be on our dinner plate.
Have American farmers bought into financial disaster with genetically engineered food?
Yum, yum, my tum went numb.