Category Archives: Agriculture

Officials confirm first case of a fatal disease in free-ranging deer

deer

State wildlife officials have confirmed the first case of a fatal neurological disease in free-ranging deer.

It’s called chronic wasting disease. It only affects deer, elk and moose.

CWD can leave them acting strange towards humans with- what officials call – “zombie-like” movements.

Dr. Steve Schmitt is with the DNR wildlife disease lab.

“The animals are thin, that’s because they’re not eating, they show abnormal behavior, they lose their fear of humans, you can approach them. Sometimes they walk in circles, sometimes they isolate themselves, sometimes they stand around with their tongue out drooling.”

The six year old doe was found in Ingham county in April, when someone called the police reporting suspicious activity from the deer. After testing done by the DNR, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Michigan State University Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, the deer was found positive of CWD.

Keith Creagh is the DNR Director. He has helped create an action plan for for Clint, Shiawassee and Ingham counties.

“Mandatory checking of deer will be required in this area in the hunting seasons, and restrictions will apply to the movement of carcasses and parts of deer taken in this area, I’ll also create a chronic wasting disease management zone which will include Clinton, Shiawassee, and Ingham counties.”

Although this is the first case reported in free-ranging deer, there could be others within the state.

Creagh says hunters all over Michigan should watch deer for chronic wasting disease, and notify the DNR if you suspect a case.

Officials say humans do not contract chronic wasting disease. However, as a precaution, hunters are urged not to eat the meat of an infected deer.

Michigan’s thumb gets rural energy funding boost

An 80 year old program that’s dedicated to funding rural energy cooperatives is sending 25 million dollars to Michigan’s Thumb.

Every year the USDA parcels out loans to energy cooperatives in order to strengthen rural infrastructure.

This year the USDA is giving out roughly $100 million. A quarter of that money is going to the Thumb Electric Cooperative of Michigan.

The Coop’s General Manager Dallas Braun says the money will help them implement a new monitoring system.

“Currently our members read their own meters every month, submit a reading to us and then we bill them based on the reading. So the AMI system or the Smart Grid system will allow us to become more efficient and save a lot of money.”

Braun says one of the big advantages of a coop is that the money they save goes back to their members.

Curbing CAFO antibiotic use

This is where Carey sends his cows that are either sick or injured.

This is where Carey sends his cows that are either sick or injured.

Confined Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFO, create countless pounds of manure daily.

This refuse, or rather what’s in it, is becoming a hotly contested issue between scientists and CAFO supporters. Continue reading

Can CAFO’s keep up with regulations?

Matt Carey standing next to his MAEPE Certification

Matt Carey standing next to his MAEPE Certification


Michigan’s lower peninsula is home to more than two-hundred CAFO’s – or Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Opponents call them factory farms. They keep food prices down, but at what cost.

Matt Carey is the owner of Carey’s Pioneer Farms, the farmstead has been in Matt’s family for three generations and he said passing it on isn’t necessarily going to be easy.

“Like I said, it’s real important for us that we grow an operation that our kids might want to take over. It’s something you have to have a passion for though. You don’t just do it because your Dad wants you to or whatever. You have to have a passion to do it, ‘cus it’s a lot of work and sweat, and a lot of hours you don’t plan on workin’.”

Carey also said it’s a lot of money you don’t plan on spending. His farm is subject to regulations from the state and federal level. Many of the regulations are meant to keep byproducts of the farm away from clean water.

The byproducts could be anything from excess nutrient runoff, to antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Carey's $200,000 manure storage facility

Carey’s $200,000 manure storage facility

Carey said the renovations to keep his farm up to regulation are costly, and they take a long time to yield positive results. Carey tried to justify a long time manure storage facility he said they needed just to stay open.

“That’s one of the most expensive projects I’ve ever spent in my life for somethin’ like that. There’s over 200-thousand in engineering costs and cement, just to store manure in. When you take that much money and put it into a manure storage what is the payback for that? There is a payback for that, but it’s not that much. Not compared to what was just thrown into it.”

Although costly for farmers, some believe the regulations in place are not enough to protect Michigan’s environment, or it’s residents.

Dr. Murray Borello is a scientist at Alma College, he said CAFO’s are not a sustainable future for Michigan agriculture.

“We’re not doing anything cutting edge. In fact, the scientific community is like ‘Yea okay we know this, it’s just one more piece of data, one more study that shows what hundreds of studies are already showing.’ The environment is impaired as a result of inadequacy of these regulations to protect the environment.”

In a study conducted by Borello in 2008, he found CAFO’s that operated within regulations still violated Michigan water quality laws. Therefore, he said, even if the farms were up to snuff, they were still a detriment to the environment.

Not everyone is convinced by Borello’s work however. Laura Campbell is the manager of the Agricultural Ecology Department at the Michigan Farm Bureau. She said more rigorous testing needs to be done before she buys into what Borello believes.

“I, yes, I have read his work. And have actually had several conversations with Mr. Borello. Uhm, having read his research I don’t think that his answers are definitive. Uhm, thats not to say that, ya know, I’m trying, that I would absolutely deny his findings. But I think that his findings are inconclusive from what he claims the result from them is.”

Borello said getting farms to take part in studies is extremely difficult. That makes the science behind the issue slow-going.

A group of cattle on Carey's  farm

A group of cattle on Carey’s farm

“I have tried to work with CAFO’s. I think we could get a great study on how to make these things more sustainable, I would love to work towards that. I’m not here to bash anybody, I wanna make the situation better. And you can’t do that when you’re fighting, you can only do it when you collaborate.”

As Borello says, the problem lies in the disconnect between farmer, and scientist.

Matt Carey attempted to get to the heart of the problem when he said,

“My whole problem is, I just wanna farm. Ya know, I don’t wanna have to do all this extra, we were doing all this extra stuff. We just weren’t documenting it before we were forced to document it. Ya know, we were doing, we’ve been doing soil testing since 1990, so it’s been a crucial part of our operation and the cash crop to be soil tested. Now they just say it’s gotta be done every three years which we already always done.”

Farmers like Carey want to create CAFO’s that are sustainable, and can be passed on to the next generation. In order to do that they have to comply with a litany of regulations.

Scientists like Borello want to ensure the regulations are stringent enough to protect Michigan’s waterways.

These goals are not mutually exclusive, and working together could shorten the journey to their solution.

Service project aims to “eat away” at invasive species


Volunteers are needed for a series of hunts in northwest lower Michigan, that are meant to curb the spread of an invasive plant species.

The volunteer hunters will be searching for Garlic Mustard. A species that can quickly crowd out native plants. Continue reading

Alpena County dairy herd tests postive for Bovine TB

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Routine screening for Bovine Tuberculosis conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has found serveral cases in Michigan. Continue reading

USDA grants $1.4 million to protect and restore wetland and agricultural lands

The Michigan Department of Agriculture is using a $1.4 million grant from the federal government for two land easement programs in the state.

The programs focus is on keeping wetlands and agricultural lands precisely that: wetlands and agricultural lands. Continue reading

Planting season is around the corner

CropsAs warmer weather finally returns to Michigan, farmers are gearing up for the planting season.

Crop analysts are hopeful that the 2015 planting season will be relatively normal, compared to last year when cold weather delayed farmers from taking to their fields. Continue reading

Seven-county agribusiness forum set to discuss economic growth

Photo courtesy of the seven-county I-69 Thumb Region.

Photo courtesy of the seven-county I-69 Thumb Region.


Representatives from across a seven-county region, including Genesee, Shiawassee and Lapeer, are meeting Feb. 19 to share new agribusiness ideas.

Region officials said the time is now to share the advantages of agribusiness with potential key partners, such as policy makers and business executives.
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Federal funding boost for Great Lakes basin

great_lakesThe USDA is set to provide 1.2 billion dollars over five years to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program in order to improve water quality and wildlife habitats in the Great Lakes basin.
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“Sprout Lab” hits the road to spur statewide innovation

sproutA program for agricultural entrepreneurs is coming to Mid-Michigan, with the goal of fertilizing new ideas.

The “Sprout Lab” is an entrepreneurship program focused on identifying agricultural innovators, and engaging them in the state’s entrepreneur ecosystem. Continue reading