Time to let Lady Justice do her job


Two ongoing news stories – the Ashtabula County animal cruelty case and the string of suspicious barn fires in Wayne and Holmes counties – have most readers asking the same two questions: How could this have happened? and Who would do such a thing?

Right now, no one has an answer for either question.

Prairie Township Fire Department Chief Dean Wolboldt told Farm and Dairy Reporter Annie Santoro it is hard to catch an arsonist “because arson is usually done by a mentally ill person. It’s hard to get into the minds of mentally ill criminals.”

And no one know what’s going on in the mind of Harlan Baldwin, charged with 49 counts of cruelty to animals, because neither Baldwin nor his attorney is talking.

Both stories have shaken the foundation of separate rural communities, but even readers outside the immediate area of these stories are reacting with obvious emotions of anger and anxiety.

“There is no excuse for what has happened,” writes one reader and dairy farmer about the Ashtabula County livestock cruelty case. “If the animals could not be taken care of, then they should have been sold before this went as far as it did.”

The barn fires are being blamed on a lone arsonist or a team of wackos. Unfortunately, investigators are stumped and have little to go on. Hopefully, someone, somewhere will be able to provide a clue that leads to the individual(s) setting the fires.

The two cases are dissimilar, yet equally frustrating to try and understand. Those responsible must be held accountable for their actions.

Not happy with budget. At least one group isn’t happy with the USDA’s proposed FY2002 budget. Programs that have been “zeroed out,” meaning no funding has being requested, include the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, Farmland Protection Program and Wetlands Reserve Program. All three programs are administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

To be fair, the administration’s proposed budget provides an increase of $57 million for other, ongoing NRCS activities.

The American Farmland Trust calls the proposed cuts a “nasty shock.”

“At a time when the world is getting a much clearer view of the many links between good conservation practices, food, farmland and quality of life, funding these conservation programs is more important than ever,” said Ann Sorensen, who heads research at the trust’s Center for Agriculture in the Environment at Northern Illinois University.

A budget process, no matter if on the county, state or federal level, is a time of political wrangling. It ain’t over ’til it’s over.


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