ALLEGAN COUNTY, MI -- The Vande Bunte Eggs farm has racked up more than 200 state permit violations in the past three years.
Despite the high number of violations, no enforcement action has been taken against the farm, technically classified as a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) that houses about 1.6 million chickens under the Konos Inc. corporate name at its Martin headquarters in Allegan County.
The farm has also benefitted from more than $1 million in federal subsidies.
That doesn't sit well with environmental groups who analyzed 272 large CAFOs in Michigan and concluded that accumulating pollution discharge violations haven't made a dent in the flow of federal dollars that subsidize crop insurance, livestock production and water conservation at state mega-farms.
"We think people should be able to run their business, but not pollute the commons and make other people pay to clean up their waste," said Hudson resident Pam Taylor of the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, who authored the report.
Taylor combined information from Freedom of Information Act requests, annual reports for individual farms and records accessible through an online portal on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality website to create maps (see below) showing each large CAFO in Michigan, how many animals it houses, how much it has received in subsidies and how many permit violations it has.
The report focused only on industrial-scale farms that met the Environmental Protection Agency definition of a large CAFO, with DEQ permits to discharge wastewater to on-site lagoons that is usually applied to fields as fertilizer.
"This is the first time all of this information has been collated into one location," said Gail Philbin, director of the Michigan Sierra Club chapter, which released Taylor's report, titled "A Watershed Moment."
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