Time is running out for Michigan farmers to submit their comments on a recent draft proposal from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.
Every five years, the department is required to review and update permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). CAFO, or concentrated animal feeding operation, permits falls under that category. According to Laura Campbell, Michigan Farm Bureau’s ag ecology department manager, they knew a change was coming, but when they saw the draft proposal, they had a lot of concerns.
“New requirements that are going into place are going to increase the difficulty, expense, paperwork and requirements for these farms to the point of where we’re worried it’s going to shut a lot of farms down,” said Campbell.
For the farms, Campbell expects it to come down to finances. The biggest concerns in the proposal are requirements for managing nutrients, calculating storage of manure nutrients, and new requirements and practices if a farm is in an impaired watershed.
“There’s a lot of other things that we think will make things more difficult for farmers including increased paperwork and a ban on nutrient application from January through March,” she said.
With the nutrient requirements, Campbell says the one of the most frustrating aspects of the draft is what is being proposed to manage discharges.
“What they’re asking for is not going to do what they want for reducing discharges because all it does for everyone who’s trying to comply with the permit, it creates severe restrictions on the rate you can apply those valuable manure nutrients onto those crop fields,” said Campbell. “It requires you to use a system that was never designed for regulatory use—it was designed as a supplement to a farm bill program.”
She says it’s not that farmers don’t want to protect the environment, they just need to have a seat at the table for these discussions.
“We definitely want to try to work on this,” she said. “We understand that farmers need to be part of the solution to protect water quality and protect the environment. This is not agriculture saying farms should never be regulated. What we want is a system of regulation that will work for a farm and will make it possible for them to comply and do their part to protect the environment and still be able to run their business.”
Campbell encourages everyone to submit their comments before the deadline Wednesday Dec. 18. You can either do that by texting “MIACT” to 52886 or click here for the link.