In January, Newaygo County upheld a preventative state regulation against pollution from factory farms. The Michigan Farm Bureau questioned whether the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) could require all concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to obtain pollution discharge permits, as it began to do in 2003. Farm groups expressed the opinion that the DEQ should only require permits after a CAFO has actually had a discharge of manure that caused pollution.
According to the Grand Rapids Press, there are 250 CAFOs operating in Michigan, and at least 30 have illegally discharged manure into surface waters.
History of Factory Farming
Factory farming began in the 1920s, when vitamins A and D were discovered – when these vitamins are added to the feed, animals no longer require sunlight and exercise for physical growth. The majority of animals used for food in the U.S. are raised in factory farms – CAFOs that keep the animals indoors, confined to small cages and pumped full of hormones. Antibiotics and other chemicals in order increase their “productivity.”
Health and Environmental Factors
Factory farms are also cited as the cause of a considerable amount of water and air pollution that can be harmful to residents in the surrounding areas. Manure from 10,000 cows creates the sewage equivalent to a city of 230,000 people.
According to the American Public Health Association, the practices of factory farms can affect those who live far from CAFOs as well. The overuse of antibiotics given to animals in factory farms is creating antibiotic resistant bacteria that will be a threat to human health.
Lynn Henning, Sierra Club CAFO Water Sentinel and a leader of the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan (ECCSCM), spoke on CAFOs in Michigan:
“Factory farm dairies in Michigan are so bad that they’re a tourist attraction. Federal and state regulation of CAFOs is so bad that my community has been targeted for European dairy operators to move in here, buy up cheap land and operate without the kind of public health, water and air protections that are required in their countries. Showing just how bad it is in Lenawee and Hillsdale Counties is one way to advocate for stronger laws here as well as to make sure Europeans don’t weaken their laws to allow these horrible facilities to move into their communities.”
Michigan Factory Farming Information Sources
MediaMouse.org has previously written about a documentary video by the Sierra Club which brings to light how a community in Michigan has been affected by the presence of CAFOs.
The ECCSM web site shows photographs of water pollution from CAFOs in local waterways (many of which provide drinking water) in Michigan communities such as Hudson, Morenci, Adrian and Blissfield. The site also provides a map of local CAFOs and sustainable alternatives to factory farming.