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E-M:/ CAFO's

Enviro-Mich message from Kathy Melmoth <melmoth@dmci.net>

Dear Environmental Mich,
I live in an area of Hillsdale County that borders Lenewee County. We
are surrounded by industry size farms or CAFO's. There are 5 close by in
Lenewee County and soon to be 2 more a few miles from our farm in
I have attended public meetings where representatives of these farms
claim to be family farms as well. I have been told that the "Right to
Farm Bill" was to protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits. The reality
is, that most of the factory farms around me bought land in the last few
years. Not one permit was required to build industrial agricultural
facilities which maintain concrete manure lagoons, which I am told, can
hold up to 9,000,000 gallons of manure and waste. They run several,
large, semi trucks a day up and down rural roads. They spread millions
of gallons of manure a year, produce stench and noise that follow people
into their homes, and depress our property values. There are farmers who
rent ground, who are being pressured to spread manure for these industry
sized farms or the landowner is made a better offer for the ground by
these factory farms.
The landowners on Lime Lake are told they have to build a $2.5 million
wastewater treatment facility for 250 people, just 2 miles downstream
from the latest factory farm being built which is to house 2800 dairy
cows. The state will regularly inspect Lime Lake's wastewater system. My
husband and I had to put in a 1000 gallon septic tank for 2 people and
pay for a large septic field on our 80 acre farm. We needed a permit,
why not 2800 dairy cows with millions of gallons of manure a year dumped
onto lands that are sloping and emptying into drains which empty into
creeks and rivers? All the other Great Lake States have agreed to a
permitting process for industry size farms. Only Michigan has not agreed
to enforce a permitting process it already has on the books in PA451.

The Department of Agriculture could not tell me how many dairy farms
existed in my county or how many had 700 or more cows. The Michigan
State Extension Dairy Specialist could not tell me. A representative of
the DEQ told me:" we have been told to keep hands off", when I asked why
they could not investigate. The Michigan Department of Agriculture has
repeatedly warned us in public meetings that we could be fined if we
made too many complaints. This warning comes at every public hearing I
have attended. There is documented evidence of large quantities of
manure ending up in Lake Hudson and on Beecher Rd. and in other areas.
The Legislature in the "Right to Farm Bill" took away any power of
townships to zone for these agricultural industrial facilities.
So our representatives in the Michigan Legislature passed a law that
took away the right of me and my neighbors, who have been here a lot
longer than most of these factory farms, to zone for them. The DEQ will
not respond to our concerns, they abdicated their part of enforcing the
Clean Water Act to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, at least when
it pertains to farms. The Michigan Department of  Agriculture only has
to investigate to see if a farm is in compliance with unenforceable,
voluntary, "practices". If I make a complaint, the MDA has the right to
charge me a fine or bill me for expenses. There is a certification
program for farms, it is totally voluntary. No one is monitoring the
drains or streams bordering these facilities. It is left up to the
farmer to test fields to check nutrient analysis, which is done how
often? That information is not public.
These industrial agricultural facilities have the government, the land
grant university, the enforcement community and Farm Bureau all doing
everything they can to allow these industries to move into a community
and operate at will.
At the very least, at the very least, permits should be required with
monitoring of these facilities. The drains and water courses bordering
these facilities should be regularly sampled as well as the land they
spread manure on. If these industry size farms are to continue, then
they need waste treatment facilities. How many years can you spread
millions of gallons of manure on the same ground year after year? And
subject your neighbors to it? For the health of our community, the
ability to use zoning to regulate where these agricultural industries
locate, needs to be returned to the township. The enforcement should go
back to the DEQ and they need to enforce the state and federal laws, the
same laws the rest of us have to follow. How many communities have been
fined for their waste treatment facilities? These factory farms
continually blame rain or the weather for manure and waste ending up in
lakes, streams, ditches and along roads.
I want to thank the Sierra Club for giving us information regarding
these industrial farms in this forum. I also want to thank the Michigan
Land Use Institute for their reporting as well. For over 9 months, I and
my neighbors, have been struggling to get anyone to listen and to give
us information instead of speeches.
Sincerely, Kathy Melmoth

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