Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Consumer Reports finds superbugs in turkey


Policy and Action from Consumer Reports
Our new study found more evidence that raising food animals on antibiotics can impact the effectiveness of our life-saving drugs. If you want antibiotics to work when you need them, tell Congress to stop the mass feeding of drugs to animals.
Take action
Consumer Reports’ latest investigation confirms that all those antibiotics being fed to our food animals domatter.
Released today, our study found meat from conventionally raised turkeys – which can be routinely fed antibiotics –had bacteria resistant to more drugs than birds raised without antibiotics. Since one way superbugs can spread to people is through raw meat, it’s crucial you know these findings.
It's important to cook turkey thoroughly, and we have tips to help you avoid antibiotic-raised meat. But just avoiding the problem isn’t the solution. Industrial food producers must stop playing this dangerous game with our life-saving drugs – and a bill has been introduced to do just that!
Eighty percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used by beef, pork and poultry producers so healthy animals can plump up faster and tolerate crowded, unsanitary conditions. This daily use of antibiotics kills off those bacteria vulnerable to drugs, leaving immune ‘superbugs’ to flourish and spread to animals, the environment, and eventually, us. 
We’re tackling this problem from every angle. Consumer Reports is testing food for these bacteria, and making sure labels mean what they say so you can shop smart. We’re backing a bill in Congress to end the routine use of antibiotics on food animals. It would preserve our antibiotics by phasing out mass-feeding of drugs to food animals, restricting their use to sick animals.
And we’re on the ground asking Trader Joe's – one of the nation’s most progressive grocers that has already demonstrated care for customers' health on other issues – to lead the way and stop selling meat raised on drugs.
Ask your friends and family to join you in taking action – this is a problem we can fix if we all demand action.
Sincerely,
Jean Halloran, Consumers Union
Policy and Action from Consumer Reports

Friday, April 26, 2013

Subsidies Information for Sustainable Farmers

FACT SHEET

2014 Farm Bill Conservation Subsidies

After years of political wrangling, the 2014 Farm Bill was signed into law by President Obama on Feb. 7 on the campus of Michigan State University. The five-year, $956 billion bill includes $56 billion in funding for conservation programs, with $8.9 billion going to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).  For an overview of the 2014 Farm Bill, visit: http://tinyurl.com/FBoverview 

To read the Farm Bill in its entirety:  http://tinyurl.com/actualfarmbill

What is EQIP The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a Farm Bill Conservation Program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to address natural resource concerns. It aims to deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, ground and surface water conservation, soil erosion and sedimentation reduction and wildlife habitat http://tinyurl.com/EQIPoverview


Categories of EQIP practices eligible for funding in Michigan include:
  • Animal Waste
  • National Water Quality Initiative
  • Conservation Activity Plans
  • Organic Initiative
  • Energy American Indian Tribes
  • Locally-Led Conservation: MAEAP Water Quality Monitoring
  • Wayne County Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative
For a list of specific practices and the funding available visit: http://tinyurl.com/MichiganEQIP


How to Apply for EQIP  If you’ve never applied for EQIP funds, you should know that you need to have an approved Conservation Action Plan before you’re eligible to apply for EQIP funds.  So, the first step is to apply for funds to develop the plan with an approved “technical service provider.”  The deadline for this application is usually early in the year. After you get the funds and the plan is approved, you’re free to apply for EQIP funds in the following year.  For details on the application process for EQIP, visit: http://tinyurl.com/EQIPsteps

Find your local NRCS field office:  http://tinyurl.com/NRCSofficelocator
For more info about Michigan’s EQIP program:
Steve Law, EQIP Coordinator; Phone:  (517) 324-5282; E-mail: steven.law@mi.usda.gov

Monday, April 15, 2013

Clean Energy Advocates to DTE: Stop Attacking Pollution Rules


Monday, April 15th 2013
Contact:  Tiffany Hartung, 248-933-2451, tiffany.hartung@sierraclub.org,


Utility ignores coal’s costly health problems in push for dirtier air
DETROIT – Members of Clean Energy Now (CEN) are urging DTE Energy to stop pushing Congress to roll back air pollution rules for its aging coal-fired power plants.

DTE has posted an online petition, entitled “Keep Our Power Affordable,” calling on U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D) and Senator Levin (D) to loosen existing federal limits on coal plant pollution set by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which include the neurotoxin mercury, other heavy metals, oxides of nitrogen and sulfur, and particulate matter--all tied to serious health effects. The company claims the pollution rules cost too much money.
“It’s shameful to think DTE would try to mislead Michigan residents under the guise of saving money,” said Eric Keller with Clean Water Action. “If DTE gets its way, and sticks with dirty coal, we’ll pay more for health care instead of paying less for electricity by investing in less-expensive renewable energy and the world’s cheapest power source--energy efficiency.”

Studies show renewable energy sources like wind and dramatically step up its investment in customer energy efficiency, and saving on utility costs. Health advocates know there is a greater cost on Michigan residents’ health by using coal as a power source.

“As a nurse, I know the high human cost our residents suffer from the use of outdated, dirty coal for our energy,” said Joyce Stein, a registered nurse at the University of Michigan Health System. “The dirty air and water produced by coal-fired plants can cause higher rates of asthma, lung disease and other illnesses, especially in children, and contributes to hundreds of deaths. DTE’s efforts to stop the EPA from enforcing scientific pollution standards will only put more lives at risk.”
According to a report from the Clean Air Task Force, DTE’s Belle River, River Rouge, St. Clair and Trenton Channel coal-fired power plants collectively contribute to 267 premature deaths, 434 heart attacks and 4,180 asthma attacks each year. The Sierra Club has filed suit against the company for more than 1,400 Clean Air Act violations at its aging coal plants--violations that can harm public health.
“The Sierra Club is pursuing its lawsuit because 1,400 Clean Air Act violations are appalling,” said Brad van Guilder with Sierra Club. “DTE shouldn’t get a ‘get out of jail free’ card for these violations. It’s time for the utility to start taking responsibility for the negative health effects of coal pollution. We’re calling on DTE to make clean, renewable energy a priority to save ratepayers’ money and protect their health.”
DTE draws 80 percent of its electricity from coal-fired power plants--one of the highest percentages in the state. The rising cost of coal in Michigan has pushed up DTE’s rates and made Michigan the Midwest’s most expensive power market.

Meanwhile, studies continue to confirm that clean sources of energy like wind and solar--and efficiency projects for homes and businesses--have created thousands of jobs in Michigan. Moving away from coal power and toward more renewables and efficiency would create many more good-paying, non-exportable jobs.
“It’s obvious DTE has more interest in defending its outmoded business model than in behaving more responsibly, embracing the change that’s sweeping the energy world, and boosting investments in affordable renewable energy,” said Nicole O’Brien, ratepayer and concerned resident from Lake Orion. “Now is the time for DTE to leave coal in the past and help lead Michigan toward a clean, more prosperous energy future.”
BACKGROUND:
DTE “Keep Power Affordable” link- http://www.keepourpoweraffordable.com/
Clean Energy Now petition to transition to clean energy: www.cleanenergynowmi.org/take-action

# # #

Thursday, April 4, 2013

DNR seeks public input on draft land management plan at regional open houses

Contact:  Steve Sutton, 517-241-9049 or Ed Golder goldere@michigan.gov, 517-335-3014
Agency: Natural Resources

March 27, 2013

A series of informational open houses is planned to give Michiganders an opportunity to provide input on a draft land management plan developed by the Department of Natural Resources with the assistance of an advisory
group.

The plan, which outlines a strategy for DNR-managed public lands, is a requirement under a law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder last year that capped how much land the DNR can acquire for public use.

The draft land use strategy calls for improved access on DNR-managed public lands and, for the first time, sets a standard for public access to the Great Lakes and rivers. The draft plan also includes a new strategy for the possible disposal of approximately 250,000 acres of DNR-managed public lands and promotes increased opportunities in southern Michigan. The plan also discusses objectives to grow Michigan's natural resources-based economy through the use of DNR-managed public lands. The DNR will seek additional regional input during the plan review process.

"The use and enjoyment of public land for not only recreation, but for natural resources-based businesses, is the focus of this land strategy," said DNR Director Keith Creagh. "This draft plan lays out a coherent and complete strategy with an eye to the immediate future, but also remains adaptable to meet emerging trends and shifts in land use and ownership. We welcome further public input on the plan."

The regional meetings (which will be held from 6-8 p.m. in all locations) are planned for:

  • Tuesday, April 9, at Lookout Lodge, 1712 Scott Lake Road, *Waterford*
  • Wednesday, April 10, at Burnham Brook Community Center, 200 W Michigan Ave., *Battle Creek*
  • Thursday, April 11, at Redding Township Hall, 8391 W. Temple Drive, *Harrison*
  • Monday, April 15, at East Bay Township Hall, 1965 3 Mile Road North, *Traverse City*
  • Tuesday, April 16, at Livingston Township Hall, 3218 N. Old 27, *Gaylord*
  • Wednesday, April 17, Peter White Room in the Don H. Bottum University Center, Northern Michigan University, 1401 Presque Isle Ave., *Marquette*
  • Thursday, April 18, Little Bear East Arena, 275 Marquette St., *St. Ignace*
  • Monday, April 22, Michigan Department of Transportation's Grand Rapids Transportation Service Center, 2660 Leonard St. NE, *Grand Rapids*
  • Thursday, April 25, Delta College Planetarium and Learning Center, 100 Center Ave., *Bay City*
At the meetings, DNR staff will give a brief overview of the plan and then ask the public to join them in small group discussions on various aspects of the plan to gather feedback. Other options for public feedback will also be made available at the meeting, including sending comments via email to DNRlandplan@michigan.gov.

The draft plan and supporting documents are available on the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/dnr for public review and comment.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How the Republican Party is pillaging Michigan’s natural resources

The Lansing City Pulse has published an article about the retreat from conservation by the Republican elected officials in Michigan: 

How the Republican Party is pillaging Michigan’s natural resources


(Editor’s note: The writer was recently named to the board of the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council as a general public member.) 
Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.
It is the official motto of a state now advertising itself as a “19-million-acre playground that’s Pure Michigan.”
Environmental and recreation organizations are leading a growing chorus of those worried that the playground is endangered by a Legislature and governor more concerned with short-term economic advantage than with long-term conservation of resources.
“Tragic and scary.” That’s how Haslett’s Anne Woiwode, executive director of the Sierra Club’s Michigan chapter, described a legislative drive to scale back the conservation mission of the Department of Natural Resources.
“They are saying Pure Michigan is only Pure Michigan when it’s convenient,” said Hugh McDiarmid, communications director for the Michigan Environmental Council.
At issue are a host of executive actions and legislative bills over the last two years that take direct aim at Michigan’s centurylong legacy of conservation and scientific management of public lands. They are issues that don’t often create headlines because, unlike years gone by, environmental issues tend to be less visible.
In the 1970s, McDiarmid noted, “you had laws such as the Clear Air and Clean Water acts because the threat was in our face: belching smokestacks, rivers catching fire, water supplies that caused cancer.”
“There was momentum back then. It was the beginning of Earth Day,” he said. “The effects (of environmental neglect) were visible, immediate and alarming. Now, it’s harder to see the damage that is being done.”
Two legislative efforts are at the top of the environmental threat list: changing the core mission of the Department of Natural Resources and diverting money from the state’s 37-year-old Natural Resources Trust Fund.
Legislation sponsored by U.P. Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, would effectively take the state’s Department of Natural Resources out of the business of protecting natural habitats by outlawing the DNR’s nascent biodiversity program. The DNR program, which hasn’t yet been implemented, would designate portions of state land for special protections to maintain endangered species, both plant and animal.

“The pendulum has swung. It’s a cyclical thing. When people realize that it’s not a good thing to tear down these longstanding protections they’ll start paying attention and things will change.”
-Hugh McDiarmid, Michigan Environmental Council

The concept is anathema to some in the timber business who see it as artificially limiting access to state forests by private logging companies. Before his election to the Legislature, Casperson worked for his family’s U.P. log-hauling company.
The bill would also delete the protection of biological diversity from the DNR’s duties regarding forest management; require the department to balance its forest management activities with economic values; eliminate the requirement that the DNR manage forests in a way that promotes restoration; and delete from state law an earlier legislative finding that most losses of biological diversity are the result of human activity.
The bill passed the Senate in early March on a party-line vote, 26-11. It’s now in the House Natural Resources Committee.
“It is essentially a bill denying science, and a bill prohibiting scientific management of our forests,” McDiarmid said.
Casperson countered in a Detroit Free Press op-ed column that his bill would merely exercise legislative oversight “to ensure that real conservation is achieved while allowing use of the resources for recreation, tourism and economic activity.”
In his view, the DNR and environmental groups are the enemy.
“They want department bureaucrats to unilaterally develop policies that will result in public land being managed to prohibit human activity. This extreme philosophy promotes the misconception that humans, true conservation and protective measures can’t exist together.”
McDiarmid sees the potential for the opposite impact if Casperson’s bill became law.
Even the holy grail of sportsmen — deer hunting — could be adversely impacted.
“If the DNR was determined to manage a parcel of land specifically to encourage hunting opportunities for white-tailed deer, this legislation might open the door to a challenge. If you are going to make it illegal to manage land to protect an endangered species, why is that any different from managing it to encourage white-tailed deer for hunting opportunities?” A companion bill introduced in the state House last year positions the debate over biodiversity in a larger context:
a United Nations-led conspiracy to attack private property rights.
Really. State Rep. Greg MacMaster, R-Kewadin, introduced legislation last session that would prohibit, in his words, “any Michigan governmental entity from adopting, or implementing policy recommendations originating in, or traceable to, the United Nations’ ‘Agenda 21’ or any other international laws that would infringe or restrict, private property rights without due process. The legislation also prohibits certain transactions with certain entities that assist in implementing Agenda 21,” according to MacMaster’s press release announcing the bill. So far, it hasn’t been reintroduced.
Agenda 21 is a 1992 U.N. publication that focuses on the need to balance environmental and economic concerns in third-world countries. It is a non-binding, voluntary action plan which, according to the ICLEI — a global environmental advocacy group representing local governments — “does not advocate for abolishing private property or have any bearing on U.S. local and state land-use decisions. In other words, it isn’t being forced on anybody, anywhere, by any organization.”
The United States is a signatory to Agenda 21, which has become a rallying point for conservative Republicans. The 2012 Republican Party platform denounced it as “erosive of American sovereignty.” The U.N. approved it in the last year of the George H.W. Bush administration.
Woiwode called the legislation a “response to paranoia,” noting that the DNR’s biodiversity program does not deal with private land, but only poses potential restrictions on the exploitation of public lands.
Says Woiwode: “This (biodiversity management ban) is about confiscating publicly owned resources for the benefit of extractive industries and ensuring that there would be an emphasis on maximizing the timber industry’s profit from our public resources, maximizing the mining industry’s profit from our public resources. That is what I think just stuns people.”
Trust Fund diversions 
The second alarm bell for environmentalists are efforts led by Casperson and Mac- Master — and supported by House Speaker Jase Bolger — to divert earnings of the 37-year-old Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for maintenance projects, specifically harbor, road and park maintenance.
Created by the Legislature in 1976, the trust fund takes a portion of royalties from mining and forestry operations for the public purchase and development of recreation areas and facilities. It has been used to buy forestland, build harbors and boat ramps, and also develop urban recreation opportunities.
It quickly built up reserves in the hundreds-of-millions of dollars, a pot of money that proved too tempting for lawmakers and governors. Twice, in the late 1970s and again in the 1980s, lawmakers dipped into the trust fund, diverting money to economic development. That prompted two constitutional amendments protecting the fund from future raids. Both measures creating the “conservation lock box” won by two-toone margins.
The first proposal, in 1984, “was wildly popular and passed in 81 of 83 counties,” noted John Greenslit, back then the first executive director of the Michigan Recreation and Parks Association and now Eaton County parks director.
Since its creation, the trust fund has purchased and preserved for future generations 135,000 acres of ecologically significant land and has funded 1,600 public recreation projects at a cost of $935 million.
“The original mission is still pertinent 37 years later, to use mineral extraction royalties to be reinvested in natural resources,” Greenslit said.
But Republican lawmakers want to change that mission to fund maintenance programs. A Senate bill introduced in February by Casperson would allow trust fund money to be used to dredge Great Lakes harbors. House Republicans are pushing for using the funds for other types of maintenance, including road repairs. The bill is in the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee.
The trust fund reached its constitutional cap of $500 million in 2010. Any mineral revenues coming into the state now go into the Park Endowment Fund, which was established to provide a stable source of money for operating, maintaining and improving state parks.
Operating only on interest earnings, at today’s extremely low interest rates only about one in four projects is approved.
“The demand far exceeds the money available, and any diversion will just make things worse,” Greenslit said.
The fund’s mission, he said, is “acquisition and development only. Grant recipients must agree, as a condition of a grant, to pay for any needed maintenance in perpetuity.”
In its early years, trust fund money was used primarily in rural areas for the purchase of hunting habitat and development of waterrelated recreation facilities such as beaches, fishing habitat and boat ramps. Now more of the funds are directed to urban areas.
“There was a realization that a majority of the people in the state live in the southern part of the state,” DNR Grant Management Director Steve DeBrabander told the Detroit Free Press. “So there’s been an emphasis on urban projects.”
Last year’s projects grants signed into law last week by the governor include improvements along the Looking Glass River in DeWitt Township ($142,000); Patriarche Park playground reconstruction in East Lansing ($300,000); and walking trail improvements in Lansing’s Francis Park ($300,000) and Okemos’ Wonch Park ($45,000). (Editor’s note: The writer is a board member of East Lansing Rotary Club, which participated in the Patriarche Park grant application.)
Disappointment with the governor 
Gov. Rick Snyder’s attitude toward the diversion — and the change in the DNR’s mission — will be critical.
Inquiries to the Governor’s Office on both issues were referred to the Department of Natural Resources. DNR spokesman Ed Golder said the department opposes diverting money from the Natural Resources Trust Fund based on an attorney general’s opinion that funding maintenance through the Trust Fund was unconstitutional.
Golder said the department has taken no position on passage of Casperson’s biodiversity bill, and took issue with concerns of environmentalists that the legislation cripples the DNR’s mission.
“We don’t believe the bill as it stands would prohibit managing state lands for biodiversity,” Golder said. “Instead, it would prohibit designating particular areas as biodiversity preserves through administrative rule or order. We think we can continue to accomplish the state’s biodiversity goals within the strictures of this legislation, even though some tools for that task would be limited.”
To date, environmentalists have been disappointed by Snyder’s performance. They say they were hopeful when he took office. Two of Snyder’s top advisers brought with them a long history of environmental and conservation activism.
Snyder’s senior policy adviser, William Rustem, was Gov. William Milliken’s point man on environmental issues in the 1970s, and coordinated passage of the 1984 ballot proposal enshrining the Natural Resources Trust Fund in the state Constitution. Dennis Muchmore, chief of staff of the Governor’s Office, is former executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs. His predecessor and longtime friend at MUCC, the late Tom Washington, was part of the environmental coalition that pushed through the initial Trust Fund legislation in 1976.
Despite the prominence of Muchmore and Rustem in the administration, Woiwode sees Snyder’s DNR as “more interested in getting permits out than in enforcement of the (environmental protection) laws,” and pointed out that the first two bills signed by the governor weakened clean air and water protection laws relating to agricultural operations.
McDiarmid sees a glass half full, calling Snyder’s environmental record “mixed.” He pointed to the Snyder’s strong advocacy of public transportation through creation of a Southeast Michigan Regional Transportation Authority and improved Amtrak and rail service through the state as positives.
‘We’ve lost track of our heritage’ 
Michigan’s conservation ethic dates back more than a century. It grew out of the aftermath of the exploits of 19th century lumber barons, who clear-cut tens of thousands of acres of northern Michigan timber.
“We created the state forest system with the goal of taking over lands that were tax reverted because they had been so badly destroyed in the logging era,” Woiwode said. “Three-quarters of our state lands came into public hands because they were tax reverted after timber companies clearcut them and left.”
The conservation movement gained momentum during the Great Depression when FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps planted hundreds of thousands of trees throughout northern Michigan and built much of the state’s campground system.
From its beginning, the movement has been marked by alliances between business leaders and environmentalists beginning with Henry Ford’s championing of scientific resource management of U.P. timber. It reached its zenith during the 14-year administration of Milliken, a Republican governor who worked with a bipartisan legislative coalition that enacted some of the nation’s strongest conservation and environmental laws — including the bottle bill, clean water and clean air acts, and the Natural Resources Trust Fund. Milliken’s singular role in promoting urban conservation is recognized in the largest project of the Trust Fund: Development of the William Milliken Riverfront Park in downtown Detroit.
The tension between short-term economic exploitation of natural resources and conservation is a never-ending debate over balance. In Woiwode’s view, the pendulum has swung dangerously.
“We’ve lost track of our heritage,” she said. “We deliberately chose a strong conservation ethic — an ethic of restoring the land — so it was of value to everybody: hunter, hiker or logger. The lumber industry came back because of that history. They have lost track of that history. We should be protecting these resources, not just pillaging them today.”
McDiarmid concurred that economic opportunities are “a pretty big driving force,” but he maintains “it is a false choice between protecting the environment or having good jobs in mining or oil and gas industries. We can do both.”
“The pendulum,” McDiarmid agreed, “has swung. It’s a cyclical thing. When people realize that it’s not a good thing to tear down these longstanding protections, they’ll start paying attention and things will change.”
Greenslit says concerns that conservation chokes economic growth are vastly overstated. “It seems to be a political strategy to let you think the world is coming to an end. I don’t think the DNR is trying to buy up the whole state (through the Natural Resources Trust Fund). It’s a great natural resource we have to protect. The lost revenue is miniscule, but the story is very popular in the coffee shop and the bar,” he said.
“It is a political strategy that you run against Lansing, you run against departments like DNR. I don’t that is helpful in solving problems.”
With the anti-government, pro-growth-at-any-cost mindset of many in the Republican-dominant Legislature, the battle over preserving the “Pleasant Peninsula,” the “19-million-acre playground” could be the roughest battle lovers of Pure Michigan have fought in a century.