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E-M:/ SB 205 Forum: Mr. Speaker, you could have saved us the trip

Enviro-Mich message from "Tom & Anne Woiwode" <woiwode@voyager.net>

SB 205 Forum: Mr. Speaker, you could have saved us the trip

Enviro-Mich friends:

Here's a true story followed by multiple choice questions, with apparently
only one correct answer.  See how you do!

The Speaker of the Michigan House of Representative calls a forum in his
District in response to overwhelming outrage about SB 205, the proposed
amendment to the Michigan Right to Farm Act that calls for preemption of
local control over agricultural operations, in particular large-scale
confined animal feeding operations.  The forum attracts more than 300
people, of whom probably a little over 2/3rds oppose the bill, and the rest
adamantly support it.  A panel of "experts" is there to answer questions and
listen (MDA Director Wyant, Mich Twp. Association Prez Jack LaRose, MDA
staffer Vicki Pontz-Teachout, DEQ staffer Gary Boersen, Farm Bureau's Ron
Nelson) but when asked why no environmentalists were on the panel the
Speaker's aide couldn't come up with an explanation. In introductory
comments, MTA's LaRose said they continue to be adamantly opposed to SB 205,
while Wyant and Nelson were pro-205.

After initial comments by the panel which took a lot longer than the 2 mins
allotted to each (record held by Wyant at 15 mins), people from the audience
spoke in talk show style with hand held mike.  Folks on both sides of the
issue spoke, though a significant majority were opposed.  Most were from
Kalamazoo, but people had traveled from all over the west-side of the state
to raise their concerns.  Those supporting SB 205 tended to insist that
local control was destroying farming in Michigan, while many opposed said
that there needed to be cooperation between the ag community and locals
instead of the brute force of ending local control. Many of the opposed
offered their specific stories, using this to pose questions to Mr. Wyant
that tended to be answered with "that's a good question" but with little
substance.  While virtually all of these tales told of violations reported
to MDA or DEQ, the answer was often that they didn't know of the situation
and wanted to get together privately after the meeting to talk about it. A
lot of the speakers were local government officials, but an awful lot of the
speakers on both sides were farmers.

The public's comments were taken for about 2 1/2 hours, interspersed with
answers from the panel.  Speaker Perricone got to the forum late because the
Legislative session was running late, but he was there for about half of it.
At the end the Speaker closed the forum down and then did which of the

Answer A) Explained that he was impressed with the concerns and would
continue to take comment from the public while holding up this bill until
all the problems with the Right to Farm Act have been addressed and
protection of communities from the impact of huge, uncontrolled factory
farms had been addressed;

or Answer B) Explained that he and Director Wyant had cooked up a deal
already (obviously before the forum was held) in which a meaningless gesture
to local officials would be made by putting a couple of them on the advisory
committee that sets the voluntary GAAMPS (Generally Accepted Ag Management
Practices), while moving the bill fairly quickly without addressing any of
the real issues raised.

Okay, write your answer here:

If you picked Answer A you still hold onto the American dream that when
someone asks you to offer up your opinion it will be considered and
carefully weighed, and that deliberation will lead to a good, though often
hard decision.  You also picked the wrong answer.

If you picked Answer B, you are probably also saying you knew full well the
public forum was going to be a sham, and that those folks who traveled
hundreds of miles to hold onto the dream above were just a bunch of fools.
Unfortunately, you would be right.

It is not clear how fast SB 205 will run. The bill shows up on the calendar
for the House today, but Speaker Perricone made it sound like he would be
compelled to make an appearance that the concerns raised were being dealt
with, but that clearly will happen before the end of the year.  It is hard
to believe that he would have the audacity to run the bill today, the last
day before Thanksgiving break, but, hey, we who believe the American dream
should still apply seem to be wrong about a lot of these things these days.

Anne Woiwode

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