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E-M:/ Toledo Blade on CAFOs: "Self-regulation does not work"




My apologies if others have seen this earlier -- The Toledo Blade, particularly reporter Tom Henry, has been reporting over the last several months on the severe failure of the Vreba Hoff Dairy CAFO operation in Hillsdale County (Michigan) to comply with the law and consent judgments they agreed to with the state.  The Atty General and DEQ are again trying to get Vreba Hoff to take the steps needed to get them to stop polluting the waters of the state.  There have been more than 75 violations cited by state environmental officials against this one operation since they began operations a few years ago, but it is continuing to operate and, we believe, continuing to pollute.  (see ECCSCM’s website for updates: www.nocafos.org )


The Editorial page of the Toledo Blade ran the below editorial on Sunday, highlighting the findings of an international panel of scientists on this issue.  The Blade’s conclusions : Self-regulation does not work because it flies in the face of the economic interests of large-scale agricultural operators. The federal government and state governments must take a much stronger regulatory role to protect the interests of the public.”   The Toledo Blade deserves a lot of credit, as do the Muskegon Chronicle and other news agencies that have both reported on and spoken out about this issue, but the question has to be raised: since this is so clear and the evidence is growing, why hasn’t the issue been addressed?


Our society has unwittingly been subjected to a huge, uncontrolled experiment in which large livestock operations and the associated fields that grow food for people and animals are being turned into massive Petri dishes that cultivate a broad array of pathogens.  Unlike true “experiments”, there is no conclusion of this effort, the ‘Petri dishes’ never get cleaned, the pathogens can and do live in the soils as well as in the muck in the waterways they contaminate and the wells they pollute.  This reality doesn’t even begin to address the public health threat from air pollution from these facilities, or the other emerging concerns the Blade editorial cites.


During this past legislative session, in a disconnect with reality on scale with the Don Rumsfeld and the Iraq war, the Michigan Farm Bureau aggressively sought to pass legislation to drastically weaken Michigan’s already insufficient capacity and authority to assure that these livestock factories are conforming with society’s needs and expectations.  In Congress the same disconnect led to serious efforts to exempt CAFOs from disclosure of the huge amounts of pollutants they emit.  The Bush EPA has fallen short and shown the deep imprint of the pro-CAFO lobby, and the DEQ has been hamstrung in both authority and funding to address these obvious problems.


2007 presents new opportunities.  The first and most critical step in protecting public health, our food supply, our water and air and the future of Michigan’s agriculture will be to assure that the fairy tales told in Lansing and Washington about CAFOs are put to bed, and the real work of creating a real sustainable, healthy future begins.





Article published Sunday, December 17, 2006

Regulating factory farms

ALL industries whose manufacturing processes produce noxious byproducts either are regulated by appropriate governmental agencies or should be. But because of the traditions of sturdy independence associated with agriculture, governments have, at least rhetorically, shrunk from doing the kind of oversight needed to adequately protect public health.


Cattle feedlots dominate in some areas of the country, and their presence can hardly be unnoticed. In Ohio and Michigan, it is dairy "mega-farms" that have been the principal issue.




The laissez-faire attitude of regulators has made the Great Lakes region a magnet for European factory-type dairy farmers seeking to escape more onerous regulations in their own countries. Increasingly, there is a clash of interests between such farm operators and the people who live near, work and play on, and drink the water from the Great Lakes.


Self-regulation does not work because it flies in the face of the economic interests of large-scale agricultural operators. The federal government and state governments must take a much stronger regulatory role to protect the interests of the public.




Anne M. Woiwode, State Director, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter  - 109 E. Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906

517-484-2372    fax 517-484-3108 -- anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org 

Sierra Club Michigan Chapter celebrating our 40th Anniversary on September 9, 2007

Visit us at http://michigan.sierraclub.org/index.shtml


"Conservation is never complete. To conserve is the act of preservation: the very name implies an ongoing process."

Dr. Edgar Wayburn, past president of Sierra Club



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