Runoff Standoff: The Amish and Environmentalism

Todd Heisler/The New York TimesThe New York Times has an interesting story on the Amish and environmentalism in Lancaster Co. Turns out traditional farming methods can lead to dangerous run-off, mostly due to massive amounts of manure. This has been a huge issue in the Chesapeake Bay for years. Things get complicated when government and environmental groups try to influence this intensely insular community:

But of the dozens of counties that contribute to the deadly runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus, Lancaster ranks at the top. According to E.P.A. data from 2007, the most recent available, the county generates more than 61 million pounds of manure a year. That is 20 million pounds more than the next highest county on the list of bay polluters, and more than six times that of most other counties.

The challenge for the environmental agency is to steer the farmers toward new practices without stirring resentment that might cause a backlash. The so-called plain-sect families — Amish and Old Order Mennonites, descended from persecuted Anabaptists who fled Germany and Switzerland in the 1700s — are notoriously wary of outsiders and of the government in particular.