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E-M:/ Report: MDA Fails in Oversight of Livestock Facilities

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org


A report by the Michigan Land Use Institute released at a press conference
today reveals that the Michigan Department of Agriculture's program for
oversight of large scale livestock facilities suffers from a "clear pattern of
pollution, harm to natural resources, and official neglect in the state
complaint response program."  

In addition, the report notes that the state has devoted $100 million in tax
dollars to encourage the growth of industrial scale livestock operations since
1994, while family farms have been driven out of business.  Many of the
opponents of factory farms are in fact lifelong farming families who have
watched with dismay as their lives have been turned upside down by the growth
of these unregulated industrial scale livestock operations.

MLUI researcher Patty Cantrell reviewed 40 cases in the MDA Right to Farm
Program and concludes that two primary problems with the program are:

"1) vague, voluntary guidelines that allow any semblance of manure management
to pass the departmen't review;

2) a interagency agreement that keeps the MDEQ our of the picture until it's
too late."

These problems allow MDA to: 1) Ignore obvious problems; 2) Promote
superficial solutions; and 3) Resist assistance from DEQ

A case by case analysis of sixteen of the cases reveals that some horrifying
violations that stretched out over years without resolution, that MDA's role
often contributes to the problems by understating the problems to the
operator, approving less than adequate resolution of problems, and rebuffing
offers of assistance from water quality specialists in DEQ.

A joint letter sent to MDA Director Dan Wyant, Governor Engler and Legislators
by MLUI, Michigan Environmental Council, West Michigan Environmental Action
Council, Clean Water Action and the Sierra Club,  calls for enforcement of the
law, which still requires compliance with environmental laws, as well as for:

1) an independent, interdisciplinary audit of the Right to Farm Program;

2) establishment of a task force to turn audit findings into a regulatory
program that works;

3) appointment of an ombudsman to for communities and residents of areas where
large-scale industrial ag is affecting property values and quality of life;

4) and to oppose proposed legislation that would weaken local control over
these facilities, SB 205 in particular that would preempt local zoning
authority to control siting of these facilities.

For more information contact Patty Cantrell, MLUI at 616-882-4723.

Anne Woiwode
Sierra Club

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