groups want farm limits
feed permit could keep state's waters cleaner, they argue
Malcolm Johnson / Associated Press
LANSING -- Large
animal feeding operations must be regulated by state water
quality laws, not just agricultural management rules that
are now being proposed by the state, an environmental leader
"We're concerned the standards have never
done the job," said Anne Woiwode, director of the Michigan
Sierra Club. "These are nice guidelines, but they're inadequate.
We're focusing on a water pollution permit."
State Department of Agriculture spokeswoman
Sara Linsmeier-Wurfel agreed that water quality permits
are critical. Under a January agreement with the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, the Michigan Department of Environmental
Quality said it would require water permits for large feeding
But Linsmeier-Wurfel said the department
also wants agriculture management standards to be in place.
"This has been settled for a while," she
said. "This was to reach compromise. We said all along that
(management practices) are one piece of the pie."
The two made their comments after a state
agricultural committee held a public hearing on the proposed
management practices for livestock production facilities.
Although smelly, polluting "factory farms"
have been widely criticized by environmentalists and homeowners,
no one attended the hearing to criticize or defend them.
The proposed standards now go to the state
Agriculture Commission for adoption next month. They would
define acceptable sites for livestock production facilities,
spell out ways to limit pollution and recommend how best
to handle manure.
The standards divide land into three groups:
traditional agricultural land, more populous areas where
there is more potential impact on people and a third category
where large livestock operations are inappropriate because
of human density or potential water pollution.
As long as farmers in each of those land
groups comply with the standards for that group, they are
protected under state right-to-farm laws which bar nuisance
lawsuits, said Gary Boersen, engineering specialist for
the state Department of Agriculture.
Boersen said Michigan has between 250
and 300 "factory farms" with more than 1,000 animals each.
"There's areas of the state where there
are a lot of concerns over the number of animals there are
in the area," he said.
But he cautioned that the definition of
such farms is vague and changing.
Woiwode said once the Department of Environmental
Quality produces a permit for large farms later this year,
that permit should supersede the recommended agricultural
"They are voluntary to start with. They
are virtually meaningless," she said. "What we are looking
for is more detail, more specifics."
Large farms has been the subject of several
lawsuits in Michigan. Earlier this month, the Sierra Club
announced an agreement designed to curb water pollution
from three factory farms.
The settlement, filed in U.S. District
Court, resolved manure and other animal waste problems at
three facilities in Ottawa County and was expected to reduce
pollution of the Grand River and its tributaries, the Sierra
Club said. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency backed
the Sierra Club in the lawsuit.
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