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E-M:/ DeVos "Turnaround Plan" Endangers Michigan Farms, Families & Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                Contact:

August 3, 2006                                                             Gayle Miller or Anne Woiwode

                                                                                                Sierra Club Michigan Chapter

                                                                                                (517) 484-2372



DeVos’ “Turnaround” Plan to Turn Back Regulations on Massive Animal Factories

Plan Endangers Michigan Farms, Families and Environment



Lansing—Dick DeVos, the Republican candidate for governor, released this week an agricultural strategy that would be devastating to Michigan’s family farmers and environment.


DeVos’ “Turnaround Plan” turns a blind eye to the ever-growing body of evidence documenting the terrible impacts of the approximately 200 animal factories, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), located across Michigan. His plan goes even further, stating that one of his highest priorities would be to gut existing regulations that protect Michigan’s air and water, and the public health of urban and rural residents alike.


“In the 1990s, Michigan stopped regulating pollution from massive animal factories. As a result, many of Michigan’s 53,000 farm families and their neighbors are still reeling from the disastrous effects of that decision,” said Marilynn Momber, President of the Michigan Farmers Union, a nonprofit organization representing family farmers and rural communities in Michigan.


“Not only does DeVos want to gut laws that protect rural residents and family farmers, in his 14 page agricultural platform, DeVos doesn’t mention family farmers even once – not one single time. Family farmers are the lifeblood of rural Michigan. But family farms are apparently not his concern. He’s a corporate man, only concerned about corporate interests, not the family farmer,” concludes Momber.


Michigan’s family farmers, rural residents, and the environment already receive scant protection from pollution caused by animal factories. These industrial sized facilities house thousands or even millions of animals year round, and produce 4 billion pounds of manure annually.1

Unlike industrial waste or human sewage, animal factory waste is not required to be treated to kill bacteria and other pathogens, or to remove toxic chemicals and nutrients before being disposed of on farm fields. Each year, millions of gallons of raw sewage from animal factories runs off farm fields and through drain tiles into streams, lakes and rivers, threatening recreational swimmers, boaters and city water supply intakes downstream.


“Apparently Dick DeVos wants animal factories to be able to freely use Michigan’s waterways as sewers for animal waste,” said Gayle Miller, Legislative Director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “Michigan’s rural residents and family farmers are already suffering health impacts and precipitous drops in property values due to animal factory pollution, resulting from immunities offered under the Right to Farm Act. The Right to Farm Act would be more aptly named the Right to Pollute Act. DeVos wants to make the situation even worse.”


Unlike many other states, Michigan exempts animal factories from its state air pollution laws, despite the fact that air pollution from CAFO waste contains potentially deadly hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, methane, volatile gasses and particulate matter that can carry disease-causing organisms. The only protections against air pollution from CAFOs come from the state’s weak, voluntary agricultural guidelines, overseen by the Department of Agriculture -- a promotional and marketing agency. Not a single one of hundreds of complaints regarding air pollution from animal factories has ever been successfully mitigated in Michigan.


“In Michigan, we are already the victims of some of the weakest protections in the nation against animal factories and their dangerous pollution,” commented Miller. “DeVos wants to eliminate even these weak protections. This plan shows Dick DeVos puts industrial animal factories and special interests ahead of Michigan’s family farmers and the environment.”


DeVos’ so-called “Turnaround Plan” indicates that DeVos is prepared to turn his back on Michigan’s family farmers, public health and the environment.




Additional Resources:

“Raising a Stink” The Factory Farm Debate,” Muskegon Chronicle feature stories, July 30 & 31, 2006. Link to stories at http://www.mlive.com/muchronicle/factoryfarm/.


"Living a Nightmare: Animal Factories in Michigan," a 24 minute documentary of the impact of a dozen CAFOs on the rural community around Hudson, Michigan. Available from the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter at (517) 484-2372 or gayle.miller@sierraclub.org. Please note “Video Order” in subject line. Video is $10. Free to media.





1 “Big farms, Big Risks,” Muskegon Chronicle, July 30, 2006



Gayle Miller

Legislative Director

Sierra Club

109 E. Grand River Ave.

Lansing, MI 48906

ph - (517) 484-2372

fax - (517) 484-3108



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