Category Archives: Federal Government

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.

Nuclear dump assessment results made public

Ontario Power Generation’s, or OPG’s, proposed nuclear dump has been declared safe enough to construct by a Canadian Joint Review Panel of scientists.

The panel submitted over 400 pages of analysis to the Minister. She now has 4 months to decide whether or not to grant OPG a permit to construct.

The panel recommended numerous plans of action that OPG will need to account for if they want to retain their accepted status.

It’s important to remember OPG is only requesting a permit to build the facility.

They will need to go through another assessment to earn a permit to use it.

Getting to the bottom of rising national student loan debt

College Students
The school year winding down means graduation ceremonies are around the corner.

Whether graduating students are leaving college, or getting ready to attend, one thing on many students’ minds is student loans. Continue reading

Canadian joint review panel releases recomendations

After two years of hearings and arguments, a recommendation was released Wednesday, May 6th, on building a nuclear waste dump near Lake Huron.

A Canadian Panel was tasked with assessing the proposal for a nuclear dump which would be run by Ontario Power Generation – or OPG.

The Canadian Minister of the Environment will review the panel’s recommendations and issue a decision on whether or not to allow a nuclear dump within the Lake Huron watershed.

We’ll have a more detailed description of the panel’s recommendations once the documents are made public.

The balancing act: College and politics

Central-Michigan-University-seal.svgAs potential presidential candidates start to gear up for the 2016 election, both parties have made it clear they want to target young voters.

A population that can be challenging to reach. Continue reading

MI’s defense of same-sex marriage ban delivered to Supreme Court

Supreme court

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office has delivered the state’s defense of its same-sex marriage ban to the US Supreme Court.

The state’s 59-page brief focuses largely on states’ rights. The attorney general argues the case is not specifically about marriage, but who gets to decide the question.

From the brief’s summation:

“This case is not about the best definition of marriage or any stereotypes about families. Families
come in all types, and parents of all types—married or single, gay or straight—love their children. This case is about whether the Fourteenth Amendment imposes a single marriage view on all states such that the people have no right to decide. It does not.”

The brief says the US Constitution is silent on the issue, so the decision on defining who can get married is left to states or their voters. The brief says Michigan voters made a reasonable choice when they approved the ban in 2004, and only they should be allowed to reverse it.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are the lesbian couple challenging the ban. They say it violates their equal protection rights and the equal protections rights of the children they are raising together, but cannot jointly adopt.

Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee will also defend marriage bans when the Supreme Court hears arguments in the case next month.

Tittabawassee river cleanup update

Tuesday night the EPA will give an update on cleanup work along the Tittabawassee River. It’s part of the at the bi-monthly Community Advisory Group meeting’s.

The current portion of the cleanup is focused on the floodplain of the river. It requires certain areas of soil to be removed and replaced.

The public is invited to the meeting and the local community group is looking to recruit new members.

The meeting is scheduled for the Tittabawassee Township Memorial Park Building in Freeland and begins at 6 PM.

Earlier this year the EPA estimated the entire cleanup would be completed in 2018.

Revived senate bill would help protect the Great Lakes from invasives

In Washington DC, a bill that would help protect the Great Lakes from invasive species has been revived by the Senate, and sent to the House for a vote.

The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, or VIDA, would set a national precedent for controlling boat ballast water that enters the U.S.

The bill was revived when Senator Gary Peters of Michigan added an amendment that would require all ships that enter the Great Lakes through the St. Lawrence Seaway to dump their ballast water prior to entry.
great_lakes
Ballast water is considered to be one of the biggest doorways for aquatic invasive species to enter our waterways.

Debate and controversy surround proposed nuclear waste dump near Lake Huron shore in Ontario

Kincardine

Controversy surrounding a proposed nuclear waste dump that would be built near the Lake Huron Shoreline in Ontario is heating up.

The main issue surrounding Ontario Power Generation’s, or OPG’s, proposed nuclear dump can be boiled down to three things.
Continue reading

Debate and controversy surround proposed nuclear waste dump near Lake Huron shore in Ontario

Kincardine
Ontario Power Generation, or OPG, has talked themselves hoarse defending their proposal for a nuclear waste storage facility near Lake Huron.
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

Kildee reflects on State of the Union, efforts to free Amir

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint)

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint)

Last night, President Barack Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union Address. In the first minute of the speech, he summed up his theme for the evening: “Tonight, we turn a page.”

Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee was in the House chamber during last night’s speech, and he joined us to speak about it. Continue reading

Latest developments in college campus sexual assault claims

white houseThe issue of sexual assaults on college campuses isn’t new.

It garnered national attention last year after a list was released revealing a federal investigation of dozens of colleges for their handling of sexual abuse claims. Continue reading

Benishek discusses new congress, priorities for next 2 years

Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Crystal Falls)

Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Crystal Falls)

Lawmakers returned to Washington this week for the start of the 114th Congress. We’ve been checking in with some Michigan lawmakers, to hear their priorities for the new term, and to hear their advice for the five new members of Michigan’s congressional delegation. Continue reading

Kildee reflects on new congress, lays out priorities for next 2 years

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint)

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint)

The 114th Congress got underway this week as lawmakers from around the country returned to Washington. We’ve been checking in with some Michigan lawmakers, to learn about their priorities for the new term, and to hear their advice for the five new members of Michigan’s congressional delegation. Continue reading