New agriculture legislation brings mixed reactions

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Gov. Rick Snyder signed his first legislation as governor this week.  The bills give a voluntary pollution prevention program for farmers permanent status under Michigan law.
The Michigan Farm Bureau is in support of the newly signed legislation, but certain environmental groups are not.

According to the Sierra Club of Michigan, the bills are in violation of the Clean Water Act, and weaken pollution restrictions for some agricultural operations.

The Sierra Club said under the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, farmers would not have to pay civil fines and penalties in the event of an environmental accident.  In some cases they would not be responsible for run-off from livestock waste.

"We think that the governor has made a grave error in signing bills that violate federal law.  They failed to call on people that are actual experts on this issue" said Woiwoody State Director for the Michigan Sierra Club.

Woiwoody said the Sierra club will ask the United States Environmental Protection Agency to review the legislation and she expects the EPA will find that it violates federal law.

She said the state has a choice of whether to put its water quality programs in jeopardy or correct what she says is the problem.
While environmentalists are concerned with the new law, many farmers are pleased with the governor signing the legislation.
Jerry Nier is the owner of Nier Family Farm in Mount Pleasant.  He said the MAEAP program gives farmers more flexibility to customize environmental programs.

"We have two farms, one that operates under the MAEAP program and another that operates under the DEQ, said Nier.   

"The MAEP program is just as rigorous and has just as many standards as the DEQ program.  But it's much more flexible; you're able to customize it to the needs of your operation while still protecting the environment" he said.

Nier said the MAEAP program is more cost effective since farmers are able to implement it in a way that best fits their operation.



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