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E-M:/ Farm Bureau wants CAFOs LESS regulated



Friends:

 

One thing that has been clear to anyone who follows the problems with industrial livestock operations in Michigan is that Michigan has not done anywhere near enough to protect the health and welfare of both rural people and downstream urban people from the horrible impacts of pollution from these facilities.  There is no question that the Granholm Administration inherited a disaster in the making from the Engler Administration, and that the past 2 yrs., 11 months since the first water quality permit for CAFOs in Michigan went into effect following a multiple year challenge to the Engler Administration’s blatant violation of the law, a lot has begun to turn around. 

 

However, as Janet Kauffman’s early post points out, virtually nothing has changed on the ground in the areas where the CAFOs are ripping the heart out of rural Michigan.  Despite huge amounts of documentation in the place in Michigan where ongoing volunteer monitoring has led to irrefutable documentation of the absolutely devastating impact of these operations, today the problems appear as bad as five years ago, and ironically the supposed “fixes” are not fixing anything.  DEQ has never gotten the authority, the staff, the funding, the technical expertise nor the support from the institutional agricultural interests to do the job that is really needed to assure that massive industrial livestock operations are not polluting our air, water and groundwater, not destroying rural communities, and not threatening our public health.

 

Now, however, the Farm Bureau is trying to weaken the DEQ’s efforts, and in fact wants to put the regulation of CAFOs in the hands of the Department of Agriculture (see press release below).  While MDA may well be better under Director Mitch Irwin than under the Engler administration, MDA is not a regulatory agency, and has been historically weak in doing adequate investigation and taking action to correct violations of voluntary standards under their various environmental programs.  While, again, I know that there is a real interest in MDA to try to rectify these failures, this is an agency with no technical skills in water pollution, air pollution, waste handling or storage, or ground water.  It makes zero sense to suggest that these programs go to MDA --

 

Instead, how about a novel experiment?  How about if we actually give DEQ the staff, the funding, and the authority to actually properly regulate and enforce the law to prevent pollution from industrial livestock operations???? Why not clean up existing ones, help prevent real water and air pollution from these facilities, shut down the ones that fail and not build any more until we know how to do it right??  Why don’t we try that first!  Wouldn’t it be amazing to actually find out if CAFOs could operate without destroying the lives of their neighbors and downstream communities? 

 

Just a thought -- a heck of a lot more practical than what Farm Bureau proposes below.   

 

Also, I hope we’ll get some clarification on the idea of  “streamlining regulations” attributed to the Governor below.

 

Anne Woiwode, State Director

Sierra Club Mackinac (Michigan) Chapter

 

Governor, department directors pledge cooperation in regulating Michigan farms

Contact:

  • Through Dec. 2: Jill Corrin, (517) 230-6038
  • After Dec. 2: Scott Piggott, (800) 292-2680, ext. 2021

GRAND RAPIDS, Dec. 2, 2005 – Speaking to hundreds of farmers today, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and three of her cabinet members voiced support for regulations that harness the Michigan agriculture industry's economic potential, and they pledged to improve cooperation between state departments to accomplish that objective.

Michigan faces "tremendous opportunities" to streamline regulations and forge partnerships that "makes it easy for (farmers) to do what you do best and makes it easy to protect the things we love," Granholm told delegates today at Michigan Farm Bureau's (MFB) 86th Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids.

Granholm addressed the membership following a breakfast meeting where MFB members questioned Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director Steve Chester, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Rebecca Humphries and Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) Director Mitch Irwin about issues affecting their farms, including wildlife management, environmental regulations and economic development.

Granholm urged the farming community to do whatever it can to take advantage of technology and to form partnerships with the DNR and DEQ.

Earlier in the week MFB members adopted a strongly worded policy resolution that calls for environmental protection authority to shift from the DEQ to MDA for farms verified in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program - permitted or not.

MFB membership is concerned that regulatory decisions, under the existing framework, can be based in response to emotion rather than science or law, consequently penalizing producers rather than solving problems.

The "DEQ has exhibited a willingness to exceed federal rules, putting Michigan agriculture at a competitive disadvantage," the policy reads, going on to state, the DEQ continues to "pick and choose" aspects of legal decisions which only increase regulatory burden, "often ignoring aspects of the same decisions that are favorable to agriculture."

"In the absence of proven infractions of law, DEQ continues to interpret statutes and rules in a manner that places additional burden on farmers to prove that properly designed, constructed and maintained agricultural practices are not polluting. ... DEQ has acted in a manner that exceeds Michigan rules developed in good faith with agriculture," the policy reads.

In responding to a member question that expressed frustration over "constantly changing" environmental regulations that seem to be "moving targets," Chester empathized with the crowd, saying he understands that the state's attempt to "catch up" with federal rules can be "daunting," and he admitted that cooperation between departments "hasn't been the best."

"We're trying to do that much more effectively than we've done in the past," he said.

Granholm echoed the need for inter-departmental cooperation, saying it's necessary to capitalize on emerging markets. She said she looks forward to partnering with Farm Bureau on new technologies that increase ethanol production, make use of methane digesters and so forth.

Nearly all the guest speakers emphasized the agriculture industry's economic contribution to the state, which Granholm boasted as generating $59 billion annually.

The latest data from the Michigan Agricultural Statistics Service shows Michigan agriculture supports a million jobs, while lending markets indicate recent agricultural investments worth $5 billion, said Irwin.

These figures are important, considering "you only hear about losses of auto plants," said Irwin. "People sometimes forget that Henry Ford was first a farmer."

Granholm also drove home agriculture's potential in the wake of the declining auto industry.

"Because we are the state that put the world on wheels, in my opinion, I think we have an obligation to be the state that makes the United States independent of foreign oil," she said. "Whether it is ethanol or biomass, I just think this is a huge moment for us to capitalize on and develop industries related to alternative energy."

MFB President Wayne H. Wood said he was encouraged by today's remarks.

Today's brief address before delegates marked Granholm's second consecutive visit to the MFB policy-making meeting, an event unrecalled in MFB history, according to Wood.

--30--

 

 

Anne Woiwode, State Director

Sierra Club Mackinac (Michigan) Chapter

109 E. Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906

517-484-2372   fax 517-484-3108

Enjoy, Explore and Protect -  www.michigan.sierraclub.org

 

"We know what to do. We have everything we need save the political will - which is, after all, a renewable resource. This is the time. This our moral moment and [I am confident] we will rise to the occasion." Former Vice President Albert Gore, at the Sierra Club Summit, September 2005