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
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
Governor, department directors pledge
cooperation in regulating Michigan farms
- Through Dec. 2: Jill Corrin,
- 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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
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."
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.
all the guest speakers emphasized the agriculture industry's economic
contribution to the state, which Granholm boasted as generating $59 billion
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.
figures are important, considering "you only hear about losses of auto
plants," said Irwin. "People sometimes forget that Henry Ford was first a
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."
President Wayne H. Wood said he was encouraged by today's remarks.
brief address before delegates marked Granholm's second consecutive visit to
the MFB policy-making meeting, an event unrecalled in MFB history, according
Anne Woiwode, State
Sierra Club Mackinac (Michigan)
Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI
Enjoy, Explore and Protect
"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