December 14, 2011

Groups Call on State of Michigan to Shake Up Agriculture Practices

Groups Call on State of Michigan to Shake Up Agriculture Practices

East Lansing, MI – A diverse group of faith, farming, conservation, community and food organizations today called on the Michigan Agriculture Commission to reassess and revamp some of the state’s most controversial livestock farming practices.  The seventeen organizations called for a complete reassessment of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Generally Accepted Agriculture Management Practices, or GAAMPs regarding use of liquid livestock wastes and concentration of facilities.  The organizations specifically ask the state officials to give “due consideration” of impacts of these practices on agricultural communities and the environment, as well as on individual operations.

Janet Kauffman, spokeswoman for Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michiganpresented a letter from the organizations to the Commission at their meeting today.  Kauffman said "the big picture shows big impact and real harm -- to neighbors, to watersheds, and to the Great Lakes.  To stop pollution downwind and downstream, agricultural practices can't just be for one farm anymore.  We need to add it all up and find practices that protect whole communities, and whole watersheds."

According to the letter, the voluntary GAAMPs for liquid manure and facility concentration have lagged far behind the scientific documentation of the negative impacts of this waste on public health, natural resources and the well-being of communities.   By law the GAAMPs are updated every year, however updates are usually minimal and has not addressed the rapid growth of intensive livestock practices. The introduction of liquid manure systems and the application of the liquid manure onto fields with subsurface tiles, and rapid expansion and the concentration of large facilities has been linked to water pollution downstream, including in the Great Lakes.  Pathogens, including E. coli, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia are commonly found in ditches that drain the farms into streams and lakes.

Lyman Welch, Water Quality Program Manager, Alliance for the Great Lakes, explained the significance of cumulative impacts, “Agricultural runoff threatens our Great Lakes with algal blooms that harm the lakes’ health, and the economy of the region through lost tourism and lost recreational use. Michigan’s agricultural practices must be updated to help prevent nutrient runoff from harming the Great Lakes.”

“Thirty years is a significant length of time, time to reassess practices for effectiveness,” said Rita Chapman, Sierra Club Clean Water Program Manager, “to make sure they still result in clean water and air, and healthy sustainable agricultural communities.  It’s time to look ahead to agricultural practices that all can live with.”

In addition to ECCSCMSierra Club and the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the letter presented to the Commission today was signed by the following organizations:

- Adrian Dominican Sisters, Program for Justice Peace, and Corporate Responsibility
- Clean Water Action
- Clinton River Watershed Council
- Food and Water Watch
- Great Grand Rapids Food Systems Council
- Izaak Walton League of America, Dwight Lydell Chapter
- Lone Tree Council
- Michigan Environmental Council
- Michigan Farmers Union
- Michigan Trout Unlimited
- National Wildlife Federation
- Program of Environmental Studies/Geology, Alma College
- Society for Protecting Environmental Assets
- Western Lake Erie Waterkeepers