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E-M:/ Full Posthumus DFP Interview section on Ag

Well, I didn't originally post the whole agriculture portion of the interview before, but since Mr. Resch has posted part and claimed it was the whole thing, here is the rest of it:


Another question in that area. The DEQ and the EPA went to head to head on the issue of lagoons, and the DEQ ultimately blinked. What kind of direction would you be giving the DEQ about confined animal feeding lots?

I helped to some extent to put together . . . we actually have a slightly different agreement. They blinked, but it really was a compromise, and I think a healthy compromise. The EPA gave up something too. The EPA had originally asked that all livestock operations have to go through this whole process of permitting. But the final agreement was not that. And I think that was important.

Are there still some farms in the Alto area?

There sure are. My township, when I grew up, probably there might have been 50 dairy farms in the township. Today we have as many dairy cattle as we had when I grew up and there are only two farms. And that is very important. That is an important point that I want to make here. I don't think the environmental advisors of my opponent understand.

Agriculture, I have talked in terms of economic development. We have to make sure that Michigan remains the home of the automobile industry. We have to advance the Life Sciences corridor. But agriculture is still the second largest industry in the state. And it is critical to a large part of the state. But it has changed more rapidly than any time since the Industrial Revolution and most people don't know it.

In order for Michigan agriculture to continue to be a viable industry, continue to grow and continue to be strong, we have to first of all add value to our product because our growing season doesn't compete with Illinois, Ohio and Brazil or Argentina. So that means processing facilities like the ethanol plant, the turkey processing plant, the sugar beet plant. It means adding value through livestock. Generally you add value by feeding corn and soybeans to livestock. For a livestock operation to exist today they can no longer be spread out over an entire township. They still have to have all that land, but they have to be in confined locations in large operations. That's the change that is taking place.

And they are not corporate, they are still family owned, but they have to be in these large operations. And if Michigan wants to stay in agriculture it has to No. 1 understand that, and, No. 2, have environmental regulations that will allow that to take place. A lot of the environmental advisors to my opponent want these small operations to exist like it was in the 1970s. That is not going to happen.

In terms of added value, are you talking about saving time rounding them up when they are out grazing or are you saying they add more value because we confine them and they get fatter faster?

I'm talking about dairy cattle and some hogs. First of all, there's very little grazing that is going to be able to take place anymore because you can't afford, the margins are too narrow, you can't afford the land. You can feed a lot more cattle by having them confined, harvesting the crops and bringing it to them than having them tramp on the soil. It's been that way for a long time. That's been non-existent for 20 years. That's not the issue.

The real issue is the fact that the margins are so narrow that the small operations aren't going to make enough money to stay in business. It's the same thing, you're old enough to remember the grocery stores. When we grew up in the 1950s and '60s there was a corner grocery story, every corner. And by 1970 they were all gone because the margins were too narrow. The person just couldn't make it. And this is the same thing. That's why I'm saying most people don't realize it. In part, technology has made it possible. When I was an agriculture economist at Michigan State, I actually argued that large operations weren't going to work in agriculture because the management that was required was too intense.

Did you get an A on that paper?

I don't know. But it was true. But the problem now is that technology has changed that. Take for example how we grow out crops. I was farming 700 acres. That's an irrelevant farm anymore. Because I can't afford to use satellite technology to determine almost square foot by square foot how much fertilizer can be put on that ground. Today the operations have to be large enough so that you can afford the technology because you are going to put on less fertilizer, which is better for the environment and is cheaper. So, that is what most people don't understand.

But I think some people would argue that one of the reasons the big operations might not be feasible would be if they were paying for proper water treatment to run waste systems away?

I don't think that is true. I don't think any agriculture economist would argue that. I think maybe some environmentalists would. But I think if you looked at the economics of the operations, that isn't true. Because most of them are already paying for that. Most of them have already said, for example, the operations in our township have to have very large lagoons that the manure has to be stored in. In then has to be placed in the land at certain times. In fact, this one has even got in some DNR troubles because they didn't do it properly.

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net [mailto:owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net]On Behalf Of Matt Resch
Sent: Monday, September 30, 2002 12:00 PM
To: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
Subject: Re: E-M:/ Posthumus -- Anti-family farm, Pro- Pollution from CAFOS

Very good point!  When you actually read the ENTIRE section on ag. and the environment, it shows that Mr. Posthumus does indeed know more about the topic then you give him credit for.

Since is wasn't posted before, below is the whole section.

So what would enforcement look like in your administration? That is part of what is happening. That is the transition. Because in a few short years you have farmers thinking one way and now there are operating systems that have to think very differently. That puts a huge responsibility on Michigan State University, one of the huge issues is manure handling -- waste handling. We are going to have to figure that out if we want to stay in agriculture.

Now, we can say we don't want to do that, but then, I tell you what, you think land has been sold in the past? You wait then. It will be gone.

In our township, we are in a suburban township, relatively suburban. We are the most rural township in Kent County but is like being in the most rural township in Washtenaw County.

Not that rural?

Not that rural anymore. I can tell you most of that land is still being farmed because they have the ability to lease that land to that large producer who needs the land, needs the crops. But the second you close him down, 50 percent of that land is going to be gone overnight.

To development?

Yes, to development. Most of us don't want to sell that land. I don't want to sell my farm. Sure, I could probably make more money on it. But I want to keep it in production.

That is how farming is going to be different. You're going to have large amounts of small landowners owning land that are going to be leasing it to the places where we are adding value. In some cases it could be sugar beets. But is usually going to be turkey operations. Or dairy operations. Some cases, hog and beef cattle. But generally in Michigan not as much as dairy and turkey.

This, to me, is bothersome to some extent. I'd love to see my township stay the way it was when I grew up. But if we are going to stay in agriculture, it's not going to. What we have to figure out is how we are going to keep the land in agriculture.

In some places in the state, agricultural runoff is hampering streams, there is a new dead zone in Lake Erie and there is phosphorous from operations like that . . .

They have to be clean. They have to be clean. And that is the responsibility agriculture and Michigan State has to take.

I've argued that you have to have responsible environmental regulations to exist, but you have to have a system in place where they are not polluting our environment. I don't disagree with you on that.

My point is that the way to eliminate the pollution is not to eliminate those operations that will eliminate agriculture. The way to eliminate them is to put in place the technology that in large part is there. And the regulatory structure that prevents that from happening.