Regulatory Authority and Responsibility
To protect the environment, ensure public safety, and enhance production agriculture, we challenge state and federal agencies to work together to produce more user-friendly programs that provide clear direction and consistent regulatory authority. Oversight should focus on solving problems and not simply on penalizing the regulated community.
Farmers who violate state environmental law are under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (MDEGLE). While the vast majority of farms put forth a considerable effort and are environmentally safe, we recognize the potential for environmental problems.
Environmental Enforcement and Standards
We encourage Michigan Farm Bureau to work with state and federal agencies, land grant universities and stakeholder groups to develop standards indicating agriculture’s positive impact on the environment. We believe environmental credit standards should be developed and applied against any new regulations to offset the regulatory burden on producers. State regulations and standards enforced by MDEGLE should not be more restrictive than federal standards.
In addition to providing pollution prevention programs for all farms, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) should have an increased role in providing regulatory certainty to Michigan agriculture.
- Timely, effective and consistent enforcement of environmental laws and issuance of permits.
- Timely enforcement of water quality standards using credible data. We urge MFB to pursue legislation on credible data and how it may be used to better invoke sound science in regulation of water quality, air quality and water quantity.
- Applying sound science and performing economic impact analysis to MDEGLE rules and standards prior to promulgation.
- Maximum use of Natural Resources Conservation Service standards within MDEGLE regulations.
- Appropriate timelines for producer implementation of regulations.
- MDARD intervention on behalf of farmers in legal actions if the farmer has worked with state agencies to address pollution challenges.
- Development of a third-party arbitration process for disputes between MDEGLE and a farmer.
- MDEGLE being responsible to pay legal fees incurred by the respondent from a wrongful enforcement action if the enforcement action is settled, a consent agreement is reached, or the action is decided in the respondent’s favor.
- PA 268 of 2018 creating the MDEGLE Appeals Board.
- Using funds derived from enforcement penalties to support pollution prevention in agriculture.
- Authorizing permits at the local level in accordance with state and federal rules to provide for more timely decisions.
- Modification of the Bodies of Dead Animals Act with input from farmers and dead stock haulers to allow any type of legal commercial or cooperative mortality management, and further recommend modifying the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA) to clarify that animal mortality disposal is not considered in the definition of production site waste. Consideration should be made for inclement weather impacts on animal mortality management and timeframes for disposal.
- Allowing water quality testing in lieu of existing well setback standards to satisfy the siting requirement.
- A farm’s ability to move portable toilets within and between their farms.
Manure, Nutrient, and Fuel Management
- The continued ability for farmers of all sizes to manifest, move or sell animal nutrients from their farm to another farm/owner. We will vigorously oppose any attempts to limit or eliminate the ability of agriculture to utilize animal nutrients when they are being utilized according to nutrient requirements and at agronomic rates.
- The continuation of manure application to frozen or snow-covered ground in accordance with the Manure Management and Utilization Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practice (GAAMP). We will vigorously oppose any attempt to eliminate the practice.
- The continued practice of broadcasting and injecting nutrients, including manure, in accordance with best practices identified in the Nutrient Utilization GAAMP.
- Allowing the application of animal nutrients to non-frozen, non-snow-covered ground any time during the year, regardless of type or size of farm operation.
- Updating fertilizer and manure nutrient utilization guidelines.
- MDEGLE accepting third-party determinations that an existing manure storage structure is functioning properly for regulatory purposes.
- Regulatory recognition of the influence of extreme weather (e.g., rainfall, snow melt) on farming practices.
- Flexibility for unlimited on-farm fuel, chemical and fertilizer storage with consistent and adequate containment standards.
- Consistency of fuel, chemical and fertilizer containment structure regulations across governmental agencies.
Processing Wastewater and Groundwater Regulation
- MDARD working with MDEGLE to implement a threshold below which no Groundwater Discharge permit or testing is required for agricultural processing discharge.
- MDARD assisting MDEGLE to determine appropriate treatment of all types of processing wastewater (breweries, distilleries, fruit and vegetable producers, etc.) that generate high-strength wastewater that has nutrients useful for land application.
- MFB continuing to work with MDEGLE on development of a general permit specific to slaughterhouses that permits land application of process wastewater without advance treatment.
- MDEGLE benchmarking groundwater discharge permit standards with those of neighboring states for land application of process wastewater.
- Allowing septic haulers licensed under Part 117 of NREPA to also haul food processing wastewater and not requiring them to be licensed as industrial haulers under NREPA Part 121.
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
- Legislative or administrative changes to require a formal committee of appropriate stakeholders to be involved in all permit developments and rewrites so that input is balanced. All NPDES writing or rewrite committees should be chaired by an unbiased third-party individual.
- An evaluation of the NPDES permitting process in Michigan with changes to allow long-term certainty for the ag industry and which eliminate the change that takes place for all industries every time a new administration is elected in our state. We support a study committee by MFB to establish this evaluation and make recommendations.
- Amending state laws to more clearly define MDEGLE’s regulatory authority under NPDES permits and where they have no authority, especially animal health which falls under the authority of the Animal Industry Act and wildlife, which falls under the authority of the state veterinarian or the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
- Amending or repealing Part 17 of NREPA to prevent predatory litigation by special interests to penalize farmers operating under legitimate permits issued by MDEGLE.
- Timely issuance of NPDES permits, in accordance with state and federal rules.
- MFB continuing efforts to eliminate state regulation of animal agriculture more restrictive than federal requirements, including lowering permitting thresholds.
- Reduced permit paperwork requirements and an increased focus on performance with minimized costs to permitted farms.
- Increasing incentives for permitted farms to become Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program verified such as limiting annual reporting requirements.
- Application of permit standards in force at the time of permit application.
- An appropriate phase-in period for any change in permit requirements.
- Implementation of permit requirements derived with scientifically verifiable standards as provided in administrative rules.
- MDEGLE adopting Environmental Protection Agency aquaculture effluent guidelines and promoting feed-based Best Management Practices discharge standards.
- Development of a General Permit for aquaculture for up to 200,000 pounds of production.
- Classification of manure, sand, accidental commodity spillage, and ag processing by-products as hazardous waste.
- Taxation and/or fees assessed on the nutrient content of manure.
- Public access to agricultural information on the MiWaters online permitting database.
- Legislation inhibiting the viability of agriculture.
- Decisions made in response to emotion instead of science, law and common sense.
- Arbitrary moratoriums affecting the growth of animal agriculture, including limits on animal expansion and storage structure size.
- State agencies labeling or identifying farm operations, such as CAFO, GMO, or other labels, in any form of communication, no matter the size of operation or requirement of permits.
- Well setback distances from agriculture practices greater than 75 feet, as listed in the Grade A Dairy Law.
Response to Environmental Scrutiny
Public scrutiny of agriculture and increased regulation continues to challenge farmers to improve farm management and protect the environment. We urge all members to voluntarily implement pollution prevention practices. The agricultural community realizes the need to protect the environment; however, when regulations limit agricultural viability, we believe it is time to take a more aggressive approach to protect our industry. Michigan producers and MFB should aggressively work to counter propaganda that depicts production agriculture in Michigan as abusers of the environment.
The harassment of farmers adhering to the State's pollution prevention program for agriculture shall not be tolerated. We support requiring MDEGLE to notify local law enforcement and authorities before any actions are taken against farms. Individuals who lodge complaints with MDEGLE against farms must be required to provide their name for public record. If an individual makes more than three unverified complaints within three years, that individual must pay for the complaint investigation.
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