Battle Creek, MI
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May 23, 2024 11:30 am

Local News

Livestock waste making ‘Pure Michigan’ waters not so pure


Michigan boasts 11,000 inland lakes, more freshwater shoreline than any other state and tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams but a new report shows some waters are being contaminated by livestock waste from concentrated animal feeding operations.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center report says the 290 feeding operations in Michigan generate almost 63 million pounds of waste.

Katie Garvey, staff attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center and author of the report, said lax regulation leads to more pollution.

“This is just a lot of waste, and it all has to go somewhere,” Garvey pointed out. “Unfortunately, because of the way that this industry operates and the state’s failure to regulate it properly, that ‘somewhere’ — all too often — is the waters of the state.”

Garvey said if the feeding operations were regulated like other industrial operations, they would have to either treat their waste before disposing of it, safely manage it, or produce less waste. Some defenders of the operations say every farm is different and the industry should not be painted with a broad brush.

Sarah Fronczak, environmental management educator for Michigan State University Extension, grew up on a farm and now helps to educate farmers and others on best practices. Fronczak believes the most effective way to keep livestock waste from running off is a tried-and-true method many farmers have gotten away from, the use of plants known as cover crops.

“Usually, when I work with a farmer, I’ll say, ‘Hey, are you applying your manure to living roots?'” Fronczak noted. “Because if a plant is there to take up the nutrients, it’s going to be hard for those nutrients to leave, because the plant’s going to be there to take them.”

She thinks there are more feeding operation owners adhering to their permit requirements than those who do not. However, Garvey argued there are laws in place wrongfully protecting the large operations.

“Most of these legal protections were not designed for these industrial-scale operations,” Garvey stressed. “Therefore, they are basically benefiting from loopholes that are intended to benefit smaller-scale farmers.”

Garvey added dozens of actions can reduce agricultural pollution, including tightening and better enforcement of permits, conducting more unannounced audits and inspections, and imposing real consequences on repeat offenders.

This article is republished from the Public News Service under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.