Category Archives: Agriculture

Northern Michigan beef herd tests positive for Bovine TB

For the second time this year, a northern Michigan beef herd has tested positive for Bovine Tuberculosis disease.MDARD

The small herd in Alcona County was found to be infected with Bovine TB during routine testing by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD.)

The herd is located in a part of Michigan where Bovine TB is common among wild deer. The deer in turn spread it to captive animal herds. Continue reading

More than a half-million acres of Michigan land has been preserved

15733Over half a million acres of farms and forest land in Michigan have been protected through conservation efforts over the last 35 years.

That’s according to Heart of the Lakes, a nonprofit that works with 27 conservation organizations around the state. Continue reading

Study looks at ways to reforest former oil and gas well sites

Former Westerman gas/oil well, Kalkaska County, MI. Photo courtesy of Respect My Planet

Former Westerman gas/oil well, Kalkaska County, MI. Photo courtesy of Respect My Planet

Ten locations in Kalkaska, Antrim and Otsego counties are being studied to determine the best ways to rehabilitate former oil and gas well sites.

The study is being conducted by the Au Sable Institute. Researchers there are looking at new ways restore damage to forests caused by oil and gas drilling. Continue reading

‘On the Map’ visits Michigan’s winemaking region

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France, Italy, Spain and California are all known as popular wine regions. And in recent years, a new location has been added to that list: Michigan.

In 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available, the wine industry contributed over $300 million into the Michigan economy, much of it coming from northwestern Michigan. Continue reading

Fishtown: A Town Within A Town

IIMG_0860t’s considered one of the gems of northern Michigan: the Leelanau Peninsula. It’s home to some of the state’s best agricultural destinations, including vineyards and orchards… as well as some of the most beautiful landscapes in the midwest.
Leland is situated right between Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau, on the western edge of the Leelanau Peninsula. The quaint little community certainly isn’t northern Michigan’s largest, yet it is still big enough to host a town within a town… a hidden town, if you will. Continue reading

MI offers assistance given to businesses serving healthy food

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Help is now available for groceries and other vendors wanting to offer more fresh, healthy food to their customers.

The Michigan Good Food Fund is a public private partnership, offering loans and grants to businesses in communities where fresh food is not widely available. Continue reading

Hunting of antlerless deer restricted during upcoming archery season

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Antlerless deer cannot be hunted during the archery season in the Upper Peninsula this year, under an order from the state Natural Resources Commission.

Declining numbers of deer are to blame for the restriction. Two harsh winters in two years are to blame. Continue reading

Democratic lawmakers eye bill to keep water flowing to Highland Park

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A group of state House Democrats hopes to prevent the state’s largest water utility from ending service to one of the cities it serves. Continue reading

Court of Appeals upholds state ban on wild boar

Wild boar in Michigan

Wild boar in Michigan

The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld the state’s ban on Russian boar and other breeds of exotic swine.

Michigan banned several strains of boar as invasive species because they breed prolifically, endanger other wildlife, and ruin woods and farmland. Continue reading

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.