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Michigan Ag Organizations, Farmers File CAFO Permit Appeal

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On April 1, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) published the 2020 General Permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The final version made several changes to regulations farmers were following under the 2015 permit.

Now, there is a coalition of seven ag organizations including Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Milk Producers Association, Michigan Pork Producers Association, Michigan Allied Poultry Industries, Dairy Farmers of America, Select Milk Producers, Foremost Farms and more than 126 individual permit holders who have filed an appeal with the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules (MOAHR).

“Michigan has always had a strong regulatory bend toward those farms,” said Laura Campbell, Michigan Farm Bureau’s Agricultural Ecology Department manager. “They’ve been dealing with strong regulations for a while, but this new permit added a lot of new conditions and new requirements for those farms that are really going to make it difficult for them to be able to comply with them. [The regulations] don’t follow a good scientific bend toward what we feel like is effective for water quality and would be necessary for farms to follow in order to make sure they are continuing to do that job protecting water quality.”

Campbell added that this appeal is to challenge the permit and the conditions that are being put on farmers.

“Hopefully, [we will] be able to come up with a resolution that allows those farmers to still do the job they’ve been doing—protecting water quality and the environment here in the state, but still be able to stay in business and keep their operations going.”

The appeal will go before an administrative law judge that works for Michigan. Allison Eicher, assistant general counsel of the Michigan Farm Bureau Family of Companies, said the decision wasn’t made lightly.

“It was something that we talked about for a number of months,” said Eichner. “Going the administrative route, we are looking for the executive branch to weigh in and recognize that these conditions are inappropriate and should be stricken from the permit.”

Eichner said the full process could take anywhere a year to a year and a half to resolve.

What components of the permit are being challenged?

  • The permit is being challenged based on requirements with weak or absent connections to science-based environmental benefits; lack of factual justification; and an overly burdensome nature that will significantly increase farm costs and threaten their viability.
  • Provisions challenged in the filing include:
    • The permanent ban on wintertime land application of manure: for both permitted farms and non-permitted farms receiving manure from the permitted farms.
    • The arbitrary restriction on the amount of phosphorus in the soil to which manure can be applied.
    • The mandated installation of permanent, 35-foot vegetated buffer strips around every surface water, tile-line intake and ditch located on any land to which permitted farm manure and nutrients are applied. This mandate severely limits the land that can be farmed by crop farmers and denies permitted farms the ability to dispose of manure and nutrients in an environmentally and agriculturally beneficial manner.
    • The permit invalidates work of the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program by denying environmentally conscious and compliant farms the program’s promised benefit.
    • The permit enforces additional restrictions, some of which are unspecified, based on a farms’ location within a Total Maximum Daily Load watershed.
  • The filing also alleges the permit conditions exceed the department’s regulatory authority; are unlawful under the U.S. and Michigan Constitution; and contradict state and federal law regulating large livestock farms.

Source: Michigan Farm Bureau

More information can be found here.