It's not easy coming up with a topic for my Editor's Notes every month (and I haven't even been doing it that long). Sometimes it helps to talk to other people, to bounce ideas off someone else or get suggestions. I told my brother I was struggling with what to write about. He was eager to assist me, and offered a topic - Badgers: Friend or Foe?
I had never considered badgers in relation to agriculture before, and when I think of crop pests, these critters don't immediately spring to mind. However, according to a University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service publication (www.wyomingextension.org/agpubs/pubs/B1004.pdf), "American badgers (Taxidea taxus) can be an asset or a liability depending on their compatibility with human interests and activities in a particular situation. The holes they dig are hazardous to livestock and people. In agricultural areas, digging can result in economic losses due to crop and machinery damage. However, badgers also provide beneficial effects by preying on rodents that may cause cropland and rangeland damage at high population levels."
You learn something new every day. Apparently my brother's idea wasn't so far-fetched after all (don't tell him I said that). He just suggested it to be silly, but apparently badgers can be a serious matter, which goes to show a problem can come from anywhere - it all depends on the situation.
But I'm not here to contemplate the positive and negative aspects of sharing space with badgers. A question I'd say is more pertinent to every grower out there is whether rules and regulations are a beneficial or detrimental influence. It's not necessarily an easy question to answer. Certainly I think the intent behind a lot of regulations is good, though whether the actual results reflect that is an entirely different matter.
Our lead story this month delves into what you can expect to encounter in 2013 when it comes to regulations (I can't tell you whether you'll suffer a badger infestation, however). The story explores the Affordable Care Act, the Food Safety Modernization Act and the perennial question of immigration reform. We'll do our best to keep you posted throughout the year, because nothing is set in stone - and that's where you can have an impact. Don't like what's in store? Let your elected officials know. Take advantage of comment periods. Get involved with your state associations. Make some noise.
Stay tuned for next month, when we'll explore another pressing question - Carrots: Friend or Foe?
P.S. To forestall any scoffing at my ignorance about badgers, I would just like to observe that my home state of Vermont is badger-free. Consequently, a badger to me is as a moose would be to many of you. I've had several close moose encounters, but have never seen a badger.