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Re: E-M:/ Pamlico Sound and Michigan's Right to Farm Amendments

Enviro-Mich message from "Conan Smith" <conanmec@voyager.net>

One critical point seems to be missing in this SB205 discussion.  I believe
that at the heart of the matter is the congressional seat race between
Senators Mike Rogers and Diane Byrum.  Strong arm politics provide the only
rational justification for so many staunch supporters of local control to
abandon their positions.  It was widely rumored  that this vote would be an
attempt to differentiate Byrum and Rogers on the farm issue.  That
speculation is supported by a few interesting developments.  The substitute
bill approved by the Senate the day before the vote radically departed from
compromises made in committee; the final vote was dramatically partisan
despite strong arguments from both sides and it totally shifted established
paradigms of support of local control from the Republicans to the Democrats.
Furthermore, Senator George McManus's recent study on preserving agriculture
offered a variety of substantive improvements that would not, as does SB205,
shake a leaking boat with little effect on the bailing.

The likelihood that electoral partisan politics has driven this divergence
from a long-upheld tradition of local control, creating havoc and dismay
among environmentalists and rural residents, should not be lost on voters in
the coming election.  Toying with residents ability to determine the future
of their communities for the sake of a congressional seat, rather than for a
broadly demanded improvement through public policy, shows to what sad depths
parties will sink in their efforts to impress a handful of influential
-----Original Message-----
From: Tom & Anne Woiwode <woiwode@voyager.net>
To: Enviro-Mich <enviro-mich@great-lakes.net>
Date: Saturday, October 09, 1999 10:24 PM
Subject: E-M:/ Pamlico Sound and Michigan's Right to Farm Amendments

>Enviro-Mich message from "Tom & Anne Woiwode" <woiwode@voyager.net>
>In today's (Oct 9) Detroit Free Press, Hugh McDiarmid devotes part of his
>column to the Right to Farm Act revisions proposed in SB 205 (see
>http://www.freep.com/news/politics/qhugh9.htm  )
>His point on the effect of the pollution from hog farms in the wake of
>Hurricane Floyd on Pamlico Sound in North Carolina comes through very
>graphically in a photo and story on the Detroit News web site (see
>http://detnews.com/1999/nation/9910/09/10090075.htm  )
>The real tragedy of the debate on SB 205 in the Leglislature is that there
>are ways that the problems facing family farmers in our state can be
>addressed without throwing out all local authority over agricultural
>operations, and swinging the door wide to totally unregulated factory
>farming, which has destroyed the family farms in many states already.
>MDA Director Dan Wyant is paraphrased in McDiarmid's column saying that
>has happened in North Carolina couldn't happen in Michigan "in part due to
>development and population pressures in farming areas that drive up the
>costs."  Wyant's argument seems to be that corporate farmers can't afford
>BUY the land to build hog factories. But they don't NEED to buy the land.
>Instead, as the farmers who have been made the spokespeople for these bills
>have demonstrated, existing farmers are being convinced increasingly to
>abandon their diversified traditional farming practices to build, at their
>own costs, confined animal feeding operations, which virtually guarantee
>their total dependence on the large corporations to whom they sell. That is
>because the independent slaughter houses that used to buy from farmers with
>smaller numbers of hogs are gone from Michigan entirely, making the cost of
>shipping prohibitive.  If you don't "share crop" livestock with a
>corporation, you are effectively out of luck.
>With pigs this is particularly clear - farmers that used to start with sows
>birthing baby pigs and raise them to slaughter now have just pigs in a
>particular age range. One farmer has feeders, one finishes the pigs, and
>none can operate independently anymore.  While this seems to bring some
>financial security in the short run, it drastically increases dependence on
>the corporation to whom the farmer has a contract, while the farmer carries
>all the risk of the facility and operations.  You can bet, if the farmer
>gets bad advice on building his lagoons for liquid manure storage, the
>corporation that holds his or her contract will NOT be there to bail him or
>her out if there is a problem from a spill or a leak. This has already been
>seen in other states far too often.
>Senator Gougeon, sponsor of SB 205, says in McDiarmid's column that this
>preemption is essential to avoid a "hodge-podge of local ordinances that
>expensive and restrictive to the point of strangling the family farm."
>he DOESN'T say is that the growth of regulation through local ordinances is
>because the state has badly failed both farmers and communities statewide
>doing nothing to ensure that sound practices will be incorporated up front
>so that farmers are actually using the best technology and tools to assure
>that farms are good neighbors.  Farms have always been somewhat smelly and
>messy, but ongoing farming activities are already protected from nuisance
>claims because common law protects them.  The Right to Farm Act already
>allows existing facilities to expand or be entirely transformed without so
>much as a notification requirement to any state or federal agency whose job
>is to protect the environment.  As it exists now, local ordinances provide
>the ONLY opportunity to try to assure in advance that animal factories are
>not going to destroy the environment, the quality of life or the property
>values of a community.  That's because the State of Michigan voluntarily
>intentionally declined to show any leadership in protecting those interests
>through mandatory state standards.
>Why does anyone think it is better to wait for disaster to strike to learn
>that the facility was built wrong, was built in the wrong place, was built
>to the wrong size for the herd, etc.?  Who does it serve to play craps with
>the health and well-being of not only the community, but the farmers who
>part of that community as well? The critical point here is not that all
>farming needs regulations like these -- the point is that THESE large scale
>animal factories do, and to now tell communities that not only will the
>state abdicate its responsibility, it will also prevent communities from
>protecting their interests is begging for disaster.
>McDiarmid ends his column suggesting that he doesn't know for sure who is
>right in this debate. I would guess that all of the readers of Enviro-Mich
>understand that farmers are in crisis in our state and need help to assure
>they can be viable participants in our economy.  SB 205 DOESN'T do that --
>it weakens the few remaining strands in the safety net for real family
>by guaranteeing that more and more farms will be at war with their
>neighbors.  NO one in Michigan can possibly win in that game, except the
>developers waiting to buy farm lands cheap to slap up houses, or
>agribusinesses who can squeeze the last bit of life out of the farm family
>before spitting them out and moving on with nary a kind word.
>Anne Woiwode
>Sierra Club
>ENVIRO-MICH:  Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
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