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2000-04-14
Montgomery County, NY. Wal-Mart Kills a Dairy Farm

Richard Blowers owns a farm on Old Trail Road in Montgomery County, New York. In September of 1999, contractors hired by Wal-Mart were using earth movers to prepare land near Blower's farm for the construction of a collosal 868,000 s.f. food distribution center in Johnstown, NY. (see Newsflash Index below for the story of how New York state taxpayers spent more than $2 million to subsidize Wal-Mart's project). According to the Metroland newspaper, the earth movers did more than move dirt -- they accidentally dug into the acquifer that supplied water to Blower's dairy farm. The paper says that after the acquifer was drained, Blowers was forced to lay off his farmworkers, and sell off most of his heifers, because his operation had no water for the animals. Blowers fell behind with his suppliers, and he filed for bankruptcy. His lawyer says that Blowers and his company filed for Chapter 11 protection. "Basically (the farm) used to run on a milk check," says the attorney. "They had heifers that would raise young cows so...they'd become milkers one day. The absence of sufficient water has caused his operations to abandon milk production." The attorney says that Wal-Mart drilled a new well on their land and tried to pipe water over to Blower's. "They have attempted to replace some of the water," the lawyer told Metroland, "but it doesn't work." He explained that the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets considers piped-in water unfit for a dairy farm. "It's been very tragic," the Albany attorney said. "It's a family who've been farming, I guess, four or five generations." Putting it in legal terms, he noted that Blowers has suffered "significant anguish as well as economic injury."

What you can do: Blower's lawyers say they have been attempting to negotiate with Wal-Mart over the financial devastation from the loss of the farm. "So far, those attempts have been unsuccessful, and I am reviewing his options," says his attorney. So the drying up of this dairy farm is likely to end up in court, but a family history of farming the land appears over. Blower's was quoted as saying "It happened overnight. There's nothing you can do." Drained of his farming value, do you suppose that Blower's will be forced to sell his land for its development value, paving the way for -- superstore strip development? All of this damage was brought to you by the Empire State Development Corporation, which assembled an incentive package for Wal-Mart that included a $650,000 capital grant, a $250,000 employee training grant, and $1 million in road infrastructure improvements, sales tax abatements and water facilities improvements. Metroland reports that when wetlands permits from the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Fish & Wildlife Service got hung up, that Wal-Mart got an assist from US Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman John McHugh to speed up the federal approvals. This new food distribution warehouse will help Wal-Mart supply a new round of supercenter construction in the greater New York state region and beyond. Blower's farm is just the first casualty of the distribution center. Retail grocers throughout New York state are next. But there's not much to cry about here, just a little spilled milk.










 
 
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