The House of Representatives last Thursday and again today considered Senate Bill 226, which requires the Director of DEQ to convene “an agriculture and rural communities roundtable to discuss how the laws, rules, and policies administered by the department affect farmers, food processors, agribusiness, and rural communities.” The bill limits the consideration to those counties with 70,000 or fewer inhabitants, leaving out significant parts of the state where agriculture is important. It also lists the types of folks to be appointed, specifically (by the time the bill got to the House floor) 2 reps of associations representing farmers, 2 from associations representing food processors, 2 from associations representing agribusiness, 1 rep of a township in a rural county, 1 rep of a city or village in a rural count, 1 rep for a rural county and the Mich Dept of Ag Director.
One amendment by Rep. Spade was offered to remove the size limit of the counties considered (failed, 51 – 55 --- 110 members of the House)
One amendment by Rep. Bieda would have required that in addition to the mandate above the Roundtable must discuss “how concentrated animal feeding operations affect the quality of life, property values, and the environment, including but not limited to water quality, in agricultural communities” (failed 44 to 62)
Rep. Bieda spoke on behalf of his amendment, saying that “it is time to have a discussion” about the impact of CAFOs, noting that they are adversely affecting property values, which is hurting small townships that depend on property taxes for revenue as well.
The last amendment, also offered by Rep. Bieda, would have added to the list of groups on the Roundtable “two individuals representing environmental associations.” This failed without a recorded vote.
So this whole discussion raises the question: if the pro-CAFO folks are so convinced these facilities are such a fine idea, why would they work to defeat a requirement that this Roundtable that is presumably being pushed by the large agricultural interests actually TALK about the issue??? Maybe, if this becomes law, this should be understood by the DEQ to mean that ANY discussion of CAFOS by this Roundtable is out of reach of the legislative intent. That would mean that whining from the massive, extremely well-funded CAFOs of the world about how the DEQ is unreasonable even when the agency is grossly underfunded and ill-equipped to enforce water and air quality protection against CAFOs, would be off limits as well!! That would certainly make the agendas for these meetings a LOT shorter!!
Anne Woiwode, State Director, Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter
109 East Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906
517-484-2372 phone, 517-484-3108 fax firstname.lastname@example.org