2007.08.15 Neil Hinkley

Written by David Green.

Tourism is a major economic asset for the state of Michigan. Our state offers 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, 36,000 miles of rivers and streams and 11,000 inland lakes—not to mention parks and woods for hiking, camping and sightseeing. However, if steps are not taken to regulate Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) one of Michigan’s greatest economic assets—our natural landscape—will be destroyed, to say nothing of the health and welfare of Michigan residents.

In his August 5 letter to the editor (Daily Telegram), Sen. Cameron Brown spoke of the need to support CAFOs, noting that they contribute to Michigan’s second largest industry—agriculture. However, he failed to mention that CAFOs are also the state’s leading polluter. If these factory farms were regulated like any other manufacturing industry, the problem of water, air, and ground pollution would be solved.

Instead Sen. Brown continues to write and push for laws (Senate Bills 447 - 448 and 501 - 504) that seem “green” but that really give CAFOs a license to pollute. In a speech to the Senate regarding these new, “strict” farm laws, Brown rebutted a fellow senator’s comment comparing North Carolina (where new open pit lagoons are banned) to Michigan. Brown asserted that North Carolina has been slow to regulate farm pollution compared to Michigan. The truth is a state ban is all the regulation North Carolina has needed. Not surprisingly a recent television news report stated that North Carolina has the cleanest beaches in the country. Compare that to tens of thousands of fish killed in Kent County’s Tyler Creek, as a result of a legal CAFO’s accidental discharge. Or compare it locally to the mysterious disappearance of fish and frogs from our streams or songbirds from our own backyards.

The field tiles coming from CAFOs run to our creeks, rivers and lakes. Concentrated animal waste, antibiotics, E-coli bacteria and who know what else are injected or spread on top of the ground for disposal. This concentrated waste does not quickly disappear like CAFO operators and certain senators would like you to believe. Michigan currently hosts more than 200 CAFOs and that number is growing, due to bans elsewhere in the country and world (e.g. the Netherlands). Hopefully the bogus laws mentioned above do not pass the State House. Watch closely to see how our representatives vote.

In future elections please vote for the well-being of our state and its residents—not, necessarily, along party lines.

– Neil Hinkley
Seneca Twp.
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