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Friday, April 18, 2014

Viewpoint: Michigan looking at major changes in food system

MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette opinionBy MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette opinion 
on April 18, 2014 at 12:05 PM, updated April 18, 2014 at 12:09 PM

The following is a letter to the editor that was sent to the Kalamazoo Gazette.

By Gail Philbin
This year is turning out to be a watershed moment for Michigan’s food system. We have several opportunities to reshape the future of our food and agriculture, and therefore, our watersheds. The changes could move us toward more sustainable, community-friendly farms or keep the status quo of a landscape dominated by polluting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or factory farms.
After years of political wrangling, a new $8.9 billion federal Farm Bill was signed in February with increased support for organic, locally grown foods. Over the next five years, these taxpayer-funded subsidies will come to Michigan in the form of various programs. Funds in the agricultural conservation programs will be allocated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Michigan, a state-based agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and will determine the quality of farming, food, water and air in Michigan.
Many subsidies in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) address the problems associated with the huge amounts of waste generated by factory farms. In addition to manure, this waste can contain residual antibiotics fed to animals (contributing to human resistance), chemicals used on animals and in facilities, pathogens and other contaminants. Overflowing or leaking waste storage lagoons can lead to contaminated runoff in local waterways. Air pollution from barns, waste storage facilities and the spraying of waste on fields is not uncommon.
In Michigan in 2013, about $2.3 million EQIP funds went to 14 contracts for practices dealing with problems caused by animal waste, an average of about $164,000 per contract.
Yet subsidies won’t solve underlying problems. Restoring the Balance to Michigan’s Farming Landscape, a report released by the sustainable agriculture coalition Less=More, demonstrates that many polluting factory farms are actually subsidized by taxpayers. It found that 37 Michigan CAFOs cited for environmental violations and unpermitted pollution discharges over 15 years ending in 2011 were awarded nearly $27 million in Farm Bill subsidies in the same time period, and 26 of them jointly racked up fines and penalties of more than $1.3 million.
Less=More believes less taxpayer support for polluting factory farms means a more sustainable Michigan, so it’s working to increase the amount of funding for sustainable livestock farmers. It offers an online resource to help farmers get easy access to applications and information about the new Farm Bill.
At the state level, certain decisions made in 2014 will determine just how much pollution from factory farms we will continue to tolerate. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is revising permit guidelines that regulate the amount of animal waste factory farms can discharge to local streams, rivers and lakes. 
On April 28 the Michigan Commission on Agriculture is scheduled to vote on a controversial proposal that would discriminate against small livestock farmers by removing them from nuisance lawsuit protection under Michigan’s Right to Farm Act, a protection that large-scale confinement operations will continue to enjoy. The original vote was postponed after nearly 700 comments were submitted in opposition to the change
Truly, there’s no better time to get involved with your food. Will 2014 be remembered as the year Michigan passed up opportunities for positive change in its food system or will it be the moment in history when citizens helped turn the corner towards a better future? The answer is up to us. Learn more at MoreforMichigan.org.
Gail Philbin is assistant director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.
For more Kalamazoo Gazette opinion pieces and letters visit http://www.mlive.com/opinion/kalamazoo/.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pollution and climate change threaten Michiganders, Africans alike

The Michigan Citizen

Emem Okon of Nigeria CBM   STEVE FURAY PHOTO
Emem Okon of Nigeria CBM
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
The global issue of environmental justice was at the forefront of a recent community discussion in Detroit in late March, highlighted by the participation of two African activists working for climate justice. The talk, titled “One Struggle, Many Fronts,” was held at the Cass Corridor Commons and was sponsored by the East Michigan Environmental Action Council and the U.S.-Africa Network.
Emem Okon (Nigeria) of the Kebetkache Women’s Development and Resource Center and Mithika Mwenda (Kenya) of The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance joined Malik Yakini of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and Diana Copeland of EMEAC to shed light on the environmental concerns shared by Africa, the United States, and elsewhere.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Earth Day Cedar Tree Planting

Help Us Plant 50 Cedar Trees Along the Manistee River on May 19

Due to the long winter and frozen ground, we had to reschedule our Earth Day cedar tree planting along the Manistee River to May 19. On that Monday, from 3-6pm, the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club is partnering with Cedars of the Au Sable, Huron Pines and AmeriCorp, to organize and chaperone 30-40 local northeast Michigan children and adults to plant 50 cedar saplings on the Upper Manistee River.

The Chapter has paid for the trees, tree cages and other materials and Sierra Club members and nonmembers are encouraged to volunteer to help with this special Earth Day planting.

For more information, click here for a flyer.

To RSVP, contact lorne.beatty@michigan.sierraclub.org or call him at 810-632-7766.

Possible Oil Spill In Benzie County On Cold Creek

Possible Oil Spill In Benzie County On Cold Creek

Developing news in Benzie County where the Department of Environmental Quality is investigating a possible oil spill.
An oily sheen can be seen in the Cold Creek in downtown Beulah, not far from Crystal Lake.
Pictures show booms in the water, and an oily substance near the water's edge.
But the DEQ says they still aren't sure if it is in fact oil or something else.
The DEQ says the substance could be a number of things, but didn't want to elaborate until they've met with the team who's been on scene for the last couple of days. They will meet Tuesday.
9&10 News will bring you continuing coverage as new details come in.