[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]

E-M:/ Comments on MDA response

Enviro-Mich message from "Anne Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org>

To: Vicki Pontz-Teachout
From: Anne Woiwode
Re: FOIA exemptions in HB 5013

There are clearly areas that government oversees where privacy needs to be
protected.  Proprietary business information is one of those areas.

However, because Michigan refuses to comply with clear and unequivocal
direction from USEPA regarding the provisions of the Clean Water Act
regarding the proper regulation of water pollution from concentrated animal
feeding operations, and in fact has repeatedly argued to USEPA that the
Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) of MDA should
be SUBSTITUTED for compliance under the NPDES program of the state, your
argument does not hold together. It is exactly the effort to exempt MAEAP
from FOIA under these circumstances that is of gravest concern.

I also have to question your interpretation that this does not change access
to information collected by MDA under the Right to Farm Act.  Right to
Farm's voluntary guidelines are  implemented through Generally Accepted
Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPS)which are adopted by the
Commission on Agriculture.  The third definition of "conservation practices"
in HB 5013 is exactly that.

The argument that this is just aimed at voluntary programs is virtually
irrelevant under Michigan's approach to the law on this matter. Since the
ONLY option that the state has in place is voluntary compliance, with
complaints being the only tool for enforcement, this exemption strikes right
at the heart of every effort for those affected by the pollution from animal
factories to take any action to protect their families, their homes, their
livelihoods and their communities.

The state has repeatedly attempted to finesse its way around compliance with
straight forward and fairly simple policies that every other state in this
region has accepted, and this appears to once again be the goal of this
legislation.  While I appreciate the assertions that this is not the intent
or effect, the language speaks for itself.  No legislative language drafter
would have written the bill the way it is written now if the intent of not
changing the public's access to this information was in fact at the heart of
this provision.

Anne Woiwode

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

  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

ENVIRO-MICH:  Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action.   Archives at

Postings to:  enviro-mich@great-lakes.net      For info, send email to
majordomo@great-lakes.net  with a one-line message body of  "info

ENVIRO-MICH:  Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action.   Archives at

Postings to:  enviro-mich@great-lakes.net      For info, send email to
majordomo@great-lakes.net  with a one-line message body of  "info enviro-mich"