LIVESTOCK (continued from previous page)
Local control last defense
December 1, 1999 | By Patty Cantrell
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service
Another dozen files exhibit the same pattern in the Michigan Department of Agriculture's Right to Farm complaint response program: Dismiss concrete evidence, avoid serious action. Program manager Wayne Whitman, says that's not true. "We will use any information available to us to determine if they are following generally accepted practices," he said.
The agriculture department and farm bureau regularly advertise Michigan's Right to Farm regulatory program as an effective model for other states and even the federal government to follow. The Michigan Farm Bureau and Pork Producers Association have even stated that recent township and county efforts to regulate livestock factories with zoning ordinances are unnecessary, and could interfere with the industry's growth. At its annual meeting in December, the farm bureau called on the state Legislature to take away local government's right, for example, to tell livestock factories to stay a safe distance away from streams and neighbors.
The lack of meaningful factory farm oversight in Michigan and the industry's indifference to community concerns bothers people like Harold Howard. "I can't believe they let them build where they did," he says of his hog factory neighbor. "Someday there could be a big washout up there. Every ounce of runoff from that property will end up in Pony Creek, which runs right by our house and into the Pine River."
Work with your township and county governments to plan for the possible arrival of hog factories. Local governments have every right to look at their land, water, and population and determine the best areas, if any, for the operations. They also can require hog and other livestock factories to, at minimum, follow Natural Resource Conservation Service standards and specifications for manure management.
* Pat Norris, Michigan State University agricultural economist, is developing materials for local governments on zoning large-scale agriculture. Contact her at Michigan State University, Agriculture Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824-1039; 517-353-7856.
* The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Clean Water Network published a comprehensive report in December 1998 on the widely varying efforts in 30 states to curtail pollution from industrial livestock factories. The complete text is on the Web at http://www.nrdc.org/nrdcpro/factor/aafinx.html.
* Patty Cantrell at the Institute authored a comprehensive report in 1996 for the Missouri Rural Crisis Center on the hazards to family farmers and the environment of factory hog production. Contact her at 616-882-4723 x18, E-mail email@example.com.