Enviro Group Pushes For Large Farm Regulations

By Interlochen Public Radio
8 December 2010

Large, industrial-size farms are contributing to a contaminated "dead zone" in Lake Erie, according to a new report from Environment Michigan that focuses on the impact of sewage and waste run-off from agricultural businesses.

Rita Chapman, with the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club, says large-scale agricultural businesses should take better care of their surrounding areas.

"The diversity of our agriculture has always been celebrated in Michigan," Chapman says. "In fact, I think we’re like second in the county compared to California, with California being first. But that’s amazing, and that’s because of the Great Lakes. But that means we need to protect our Great Lakes."

The report also highlights major environmental problems in the areas immediately surrounding the farms.

Lynn Henning, a small-scale farmer who grows soy beans and corn near a large dairy operation, says the farm has caused a lot of problems in her community in the past decade.

"Things like blood worms in the water, which can cause Hepatitis," she says. "I grew up I used to play in the streams when I was a child, you can’t let kids do that no more. We’re seeing road damage – we’ve had over $200,000 dollars of road damage in our area. We’re seeing the animal population – the wildlife – we’re seeing a lot more coyotes, dead birds, fly outbreaks."

The Sierra Club has a list of environmental regulations they would like the Legislature to approve to ensure clean practices from the farms. Environmental groups are also trying to head-off a relaxation in enforcement by the incoming administration of Governor-elect Rich Snyder.

Many lawmakers in Lansing say the state needs to protect the growth of agriculture, which they say is one of the strongest parts of Michigan’s economy.