Livestock production in Michigan’s rural communities

Speakers for an April 23 conference will discuss issues influencing relations between livestock farms and the farm’s rural neighbors.

As reported in the annual Right to Farm Report, in 2011 the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) conducted 131 farm inspections, responding to 112 rural resident complaints and 19 farmer, or farm manager, requests for a proactive inspection. Sixty-five percent of these inspections were related to either a livestock farm or manure application on fields controlled by a livestock farm. The report acknowledges a portion of the remaining inspections were indirectly related to livestock production as they concerned manure application on a crop farmer’s fields but the number of these types of complaints was not included in the report. According to the report, over 50 percent of the Right to Farm inspections MDARD staff conducted in 2011 either did not verify the complaint (the inspection confirmed the farm was complying with GAAMPs) or the inspection was in response to a proactive request by the farmer.

Strained relations between livestock farmers and neighboring residents are common across Michigan’s rural landscape. The percentage of Right to Farm inspections related to livestock farms, when considered with the high number of those inspections that are either unverified or proactive assessments, are in part reflective of those strained relations.

On April 23, 2013 Michigan State University Extension will sponsor a conference to explore the most recent science on issues straining the relationship between rural communities and livestock farms. Key issues discussed during this conference will include assessing the cumulative influence of livestock odors on a community, current science on the influence of modern livestock production on rural community health, watershed best management practices and a discussion of how farmers are participating in programs to reduce ecological impacts.

The Communities and Livestock conference will be held at the MSU Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, 4125 Beaumont Road, East Lansing, Mich. Registration will open at 8:30 a.m. and the conference will convene at 9:00 a.m. Preregistration is required. Online registration is available or a mail in registration form can be found at the same site. Registration is $85.00 per person and will include all conference materials. Refreshments and lunch are provided.

Livestock farms are an important sector of Michigan’s food production system and opportunities for continued growth of the industry in the state’s rural areas is promising. Objective science has a role in answering questions and providing solutions to those issues that influence controversy in rural communities. The Communities and Livestock conference will provide important information for farmers, rural residents, farm consultants and state and federal agency staff on issues affecting both the agriculture and non-agriculture segments of rural communities. For more information on the conference, contact Jerry May at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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