Snyder opposes e-cigarette rules that don’t classify them as tobacco

blue-ego-ce4-3The state Senate could vote tomorrow (Tue.) on legislation that would ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. But Governor Rick Snyder (R) says he’s against the bills and hopes lawmakers will adopt a different course.
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Vermont wants to send inmates to Baldwin private prison

prison 11-26-13Vermont intends to move 319 high-security inmates to a privately run prison in Michigan. That would allow the GEO Group to re-open the facility in Baldwin that’s been closed since 2005, when Michigan scrapped its agreement with the company.
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Bill would give students who default on loans a second chance

student-loan-debt1-680x430College graduates who default on private loans may soon have a second chance if legislation introduced on May 10th in the United State Congress, becomes a law.

Senator Gary Peters of Michigan introduced the Fair Student Credit Act, with bipartisan support from West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito. Continue reading

Snyder: Helping inmates find jobs key to stopping cycle of crime

prison 11-26-13Gov. Rick Snyder outlined a public safety agenda on Monday that includes parole and sentencing reforms, job training for inmates, and more help finding a job once they’re released from prison.

Snyder says there are data-driven ways to reduce the state’s prison population without compromising public safety. Continue reading

Blue Ribbon group attempts to improve Michigan gaming

The Blue Ribbon Advisory Group is the newest regulatory body created by the DNR to protect and improve Michigan’s public gaming areas.

The group will examine hunting grounds and suggest ways to improve the habitat, and hunters’ overall experience.

Russ Mason is a spokesman for the DNR. He says the effort is more important than some people may realize

“And it’s important for people to recognize that these aren’t just acres that are sittin’ there. These are acres that are critical for the timber industry, the mining industry. These aren’t just a bunch of trees on public land. These are really valuable assets that we need to think about and care for in a very deliberate fashion, and move forward. Because they are, perhaps the catalyst for Michigan’s economic recovery.”

Mason says the group is going to have a lot to consider

“The U.P and the Northern Lower 40 acres of land per man, woman and child. Southern Michigan we’re essentially .04 acres. There are counties in Southern Michigan without a square inch of public hunting land. That needs to be different if we want Michiganders to care about the one thing that makes Michigan special in my view, and that’s their natural resources. ”

Mason says the Group is expected to wrap up its work within 18 months.

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.

Isabella Citizens for Health receives federal grant

 

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After working over the past five years to become a federal qualified health center, a Mount Pleasant health center will now receive federal funding.

Isabella Citizens for Health, will receive just over 1.3 million dollars over the next two years in federal funding. The money will be used for day to day operations.

Prior to the grant, the facility was able to keep its doors open, but was operating at a loss.

Jennifer White is the Executive Director for the clinic. Say says the clinic is now going to be able to sustain themselves and operate independently of their supporters.

White says the clinic provides services to uninsured and under-insured patients, based on a sliding fee scale. The scale is based off of household income and size.

The center currently has over 4,000 patients, of which 1,200 were acquired in the last six months. The next closest federally qualified health center is nearly an hour away from Mount Pleasant.

 

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

Senate panel votes to scrap prevailing wage

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A state Senate committee has adopted a Republican proposal to scrap prevailing union wage requirements on publicly funded construction projects. Michigan Public Radio’s Rick Pluta tells us the bills now go to the Senate floor. Continue reading

Summer job outlook improves for teenagers

Picture courtesy of www.mainstreet.com

Picture courtesy of www.mainstreet.com

Teenagers ages 16 through 19 are expected to have a better chance of finding a job this summer.

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget said in a press release that the projected unemployment rate for teens during the summer will be 17%. That’s three down from last year. 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.