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E-M:/ MDA responds to LIVESTOCK FACTORY POLLUTION SECRECY BILL IN HOUSECOMMITTEE NEXT TH...



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Enviro-Mich message from "Anne Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org>
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Enviro-michers:  Vicki Pontz-Teachout with the Michigan Department of
Agriculture responds below to the issues raised about the FOIA exemption in
HB 5013.  AW

-----Original Message-----
From: Vicki Pontz [mailto:PontzV@state.mi.us]
Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2001 12:56 PM
To: Cubbagec@aol.com; anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org
Subject: RE: E-M:/ LIVESTOCK FACTORY POLLUTION SECRECY BILL IN
HOUSECOMMITTEE NEXT TH...


Hi Anne:  I am just now reading your e-mails to and from Chuck Cubbage.  I
appreciate the opportunity to respond to your questions about the FOIA
language in the proposed Agriculture Pollution Prevention Act.

The legislation is being proposed by MDA with the input and assistance of a
diverse gorup of agriculture and conservation interests.  It is designed to
augment MDA's ongoing pollution prevention efforts by statutorily validating
two current programs (MAEAP and CREP) and by establishing a statutory
framework for future voluntary, incentive-driven pollution prevention
programs relative to agriculture.

You have concern over the exemption of some documents generated in
connection with the voluntary p2 programs from the Freedom of Information
Act.  I appreciate you bringing to our attention that we did not clarify
that all programs covered in the bill are voluntary programs, not required
in any circumstances under this legislation.  I am working with the sponsor
to offer amendments to clarify the voluntary nature of MDA's p2 programs
mentioned in the bill.

Let me also offer the following :

The bill creates a new part within NREPA and does not amend any provision of
NREPA, including reporting requirements or availability of documents from
MDEQ or MDA under existing FOIA provisions.

The bill does not amend the Right to Farm Act and makes no changes as to
information currently available through FOIA on investigations under RIght
to Farm.

The bill does not amend the Pesticide Act and makes no changes to
information currently available through FOIA under that part of NREPA.

The exemption under FOIA in HB 5013 does not change the accessibility of any
documents available now.  It does sheild the individual business plans of
landwoners who voluntarily choose to work with MDA to identify where they
could make conservation and environmental improvements.  Information abour
changes ordered by the state to bring a landowners operation into compliance
with environmental laws is not exempt from FOIA.  The key to this provision
is that this information is being provided voluntarily - if everything
within the process is available publicly, landowners will not be willing to
come forth and go through the review process.

MDA's goal is to work collaboratively and proactively with landowners to
promote conservation and environmental stewardship through voluntary,
incentive-driven programs based on sound sicience.

I look forward to your review of the amendments that clarify the voluntary
nature of all Agriculture Pollution Prevention programs under this act.

Vicki Pontz-Teachout

>>> "Anne Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org> 10/01/01 07:21PM >>>
Chuck:  I have heard nothing so far from anyone about why this abridgement
of the Freedom of Information Act access to this information has been
proposed.  And rather than speculate, since you have brought some of the key
players in the MDA into this via your cc list, I hope they will take the
opportunity to respond to your question.  Anne Woiwode
  -----Original Message-----
  From: Cubbagec@aol.com [mailto:Cubbagec@aol.com]
  Sent: Monday, October 01, 2001 1:15 PM
  To: anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org; enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
  Cc: CreaghK@state.mi.us; WyantD9@state.mi.us; Pontzv@state.mi.us
  Subject: Re: E-M:/ LIVESTOCK FACTORY POLLUTION SECRECY BILL IN HOUSE
COMMITTEE NEXT TH...


  Anne,
  Thanks for the thoughts on HB 5013.  Most of you know that I have retired
as the MDA Sc Advisor (Jan 2000), but continue to provide input to MDA on a
variety of issues.  I have asked MDA directly for their view of the need for
the bill and the secrecy provision.

  You know that I have always supported our good buddy T. Jefferson (Sept
28, 1820) when he wrote: If you believe the people are not enlightened
enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is
not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion".  It made sense
then and even more sense now.

  The American agriculture industry needs to to spend $ and energy on making
sure the public is well informed so that thethe public will make informed
choices.  An informed public will share informed opinions with their state
representatives.  Agriculture has nothing to fear from a public that
understands what choices they are making.  It is MDA, Farm Bureau and the ag
industry's responsibility to make sure that public is well informed.  It is
a giant mistake to even make it appear that access to public welfare and
safety information is being limited.  I am sure it is not as simple as it
may seem, but on the other hand, the bottom line about believing in people's
right to know and their ability to make right decisions when they do know,
is pretty straight forward.

  Anne, do you know what the arguments are for limiting access to the "ag
plans"?
  Regards,
  Chuck



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