July 2008


Wisconsin organic farmer, Food and Society Fellow, and MEA Board Member Jim Goodman wrote an excellent opinion piece on the need for small, local, sustainable agriculture in Monday’s Capital Times.

As he thoughtfully explains:

Small is the future. We know indigenous farmers can produce more food using traditional farming methods. They have no need of genetically modified seed or chemicals. All they need is an end to wars and, as Frances Moore Lappe would say, “more democracy.” The World Bank and the G-8 need to let them make their own decisions and feed themselves.

Western countries need to take a step back. We cannot continue to feed grass-eating animals a diet of grain, nor can we continue to fill our fuel tanks with grain. We cannot continue to encourage and subsidize industrial agriculture at the expense of small local producers.

What we can do is return to local and regional food production. We can allow the rest of the world to feed themselves by reining in the influence of multinational grain and chemical companies. We can redevelop local communities and keep local dollars local, rather than filling the coffers of offshore corporate bank accounts.

Thanks for the encouragement, Jim!  And by the way, on his small farm in Wonewoc, Northwood Farm, Jim raises organic, grassfed beef the non-CAFO way.   Supporting family farmers like Jim is essential in the fight against factory farms.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) denied a CAFO a Clean Water Act (CWA) discharge permit for the first time in its history on June 30, explaining that the permit would have allowed for a lowering of water quality without the necessary demonstration of economic and social need that the CWA requires. According to an article published July 1 in the Kalamazoo Gazette:

DEQ officials, he said, had insufficient assurances that the proposed Longnecker Road CAFO would not contribute negatively to water quality or be responsible for lowering the values of neighboring properties. McCann said the state also had insufficient assurances that the operation would not damage local roads from heavy and excessive truck traffic, or harm surrounding open space and wildlife habitat.

According to a story on WoodTV.com, the well-organized efforts of local environmental advocates played a key role in the DEQ’s decision:

They provided evidence that jobs provided by the dairy would lower the township’s median wage level and drive away smaller farms that pay better, he said. Also, they argued persuasively that the facility would drive down property values, harm tourism and damage roads and the rural character with repeated shipments of manure, he said.

Kudos to the Michigan DEQ for having the guts to stand up to a powerful industry in the name of clean water. This serves a useful model for Wisconsin, where the Department of Natural Resources has never denied a CAFO permit.