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    At this time there is a growing concern over the Agriculture industry and clean water being contaminated by animal waste. Allegations have been in place accusing farmers and CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) of neglecting to properly take care of animal waste leading to the contamination of streams, rivers and causing disease to animals consuming this polluted water which could lead to human illness. Over recent years many cases have arose under certain similar investigations. The recently drafted plan to conserve clean water is primarily targeting the CAFOs and plan to pursue legal action of highly stressed water locations. Opponents of the CAFO are using many tactics to prove there is a problem in need of urgent resolution. The CAFOs pollute the air, water, and increase human health risks. Without further governmental assistance more people are at risk especially those in close proximity to such farms.

     

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    Many neighbors to CAFO farms will attests to the smell that is produced by agricultural farms. The air pollution can be so extreme people have been driven out of their homes or sick to their stomach on a daily basis. "Opponents of huge livestock operations complain they cram animals together like sardines threaten the environment with massive quantities of waste and generate smells that could peel paint off the walls." (mlive). People also have reported a number of instances where animal manure has drained into the streams and rivers nearby. An example of this the Chesterfield Dairy, where two tankers needed to be brought to the farm to attempt to eliminate the waste spill. However, the spill was too extensive to be salvaged before running into a nearby steam leading into a river.
    Another reason the conservations have concern is the farmers use of waste by storing it on site to use for fertilizer. By doing this the waste overflows and vehicles tracing the material can lead to runoff, storm water can easily get mixed along with other harsh chemicals, runoff to nearby streams and rivers, and CAFOs also produce gases such as methane, ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide which pollute the air. (Organic Consumers Association). By result of waste/chemicals being distributed to streams and ground water can lead to human health deficiencies. Groups such as the Sierra Club show research revolving around such cases. The contamination of such an event can lead to hydrogen sulfide poisoning which can lead to brain damage, nausea, "blue baby syndrome." Other tests conclude that e.coli that has been recently common is not coming from human waste in soil but in fact animal waste proving the possible affects such farms can have on the general public.
    Animal welfare is also a primary concern, as animals are being stuffed into unsanitary and cruel living situations. "An average Michigan farm spreads 170 cows across 340 acres, while CAFO operations have as many as 3,000 cows contained on fewer than six acres." (Organic Consumers Association). How can responsibility be taken on already such careless circumstances? How can the CAFO operation leaders argue the quality of life or has that been eliminated along with responsibility as well? As more and more farms grow in livestock (not land) the quality of agriculture as it has existed also declines, however in this case the victims are the livestock and humans a risk many are up in arms over.


    When this issue is debated there are many against the regulations on CAFOs as well. Farmers claim to stick together to stop this legislation from going any further. Farmers feel bullied for using CAFOs. Many farmers and agriculture experts stand behind the use of CAFO's and assert that they are, for many farmers, the only way to stay in business. Smaller farms can't compete with the mega farmers of CAFOs. "Farmers say the state‘s permitting system unfairly penalizes those operations that don't pollute. " (Organic Consumers Association). They blame Vreba-Hoff Diary for not taking waste responsibility seriously and giving the CAFOs a bad name. Many argue that this legislation is being "pushed down our throat," by not giving the farmers more say on the matter.


    On the other side of politics the Attorney General has been following up on major suits filed against such farms as Vreba-Hoff, but claims there are many more like it. Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, said, " This GAO study confirms that the Bush Administration's plan to exempt industrial sized animal feeding operations from emissions reporting requirements in nothing more than a favor to Big Agribusiness at the expense of the public health and communities living near these facilities." (CAFO News, Environmentally Concerned Citizens).


    When it comes to the CAFO cases whether for or against people are coming out in number to give their two sense. However, a compromise between both sides is greatly urged in the near future before more mega farms are built. In conclusion, many farmers are moving in the direction of CAFO farms, the question remains are they harmful to society, and the quality of life enough to stop their circulation in the nation?

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    The Michigan Policy Network is a student-led public education and research program to report and organize news and information about the political process surrounding Michigan state policy issues. It is run out of the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, with participation by students from the College of Social Science, the College of Communication, and James Madison College. 

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    Meet your Policy Fellow: Jeffrey Astrein

    Jeffrey Astrein is Agriculture correspondent and fellow for the Michigan Policy Network. Jeffrey is a senior at Michigan State University.