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Posts from the ‘agriculture’ Category

Talking trash: overhauling Michigan’s landfill-first waste policy

From Faygo to Vernors, Michigan is great at making beverages. We’re also a leader at recycling those bottles.

Michigan launched its bottle deposit program in 1976 to protect our rivers and streams from litter, and it’s been a huge success. Ninety percent of the pop and beer cans and bottles sold in the state are recycled, but that’s where the buck stops with recycling in Michigan.

Aside from bottles and cans, our recycling rate is abysmal.

We have the lowest recycling rate in the Great Lakes region — that’s right, Ohio has us beat.

Actually, most states have us beat. Only Mississippi and Oklahoma rank lower.

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Michigan farms among those most at risk from wild bee decline, study shows

Seven agriculture-heavy Michigan counties are among the nation’s most likely to be impacted by the loss of native pollinators, according to the first study to map wild bees in the United States.

Both honeybees and wild pollinator populations are shrinking, a trend that’s been linked to habitat loss, parasites, pathogens, pesticide exposure, climate change and other factors. A global assessment of pollinators published last February found a growing number of them threatened with extinction.

Scientists say more than $3 billion of the country’s agriculture economy depends on the free services provided by native pollinators, including more than 4,000 species of wild bees. That’s on top of the $15 billion impact from European honeybees raised to pollinate crops and produce honey.

The study, led by the University of Vermont with contributions from Michigan State and other universities, paired expert knowledge with models of land-cover change to estimate that wild bee abundance in the contiguous U.S. decreased by 23 percent from 2008 to 2013. The results also show that 39 percent of croplands that depend on pollinators face a widening gap between the demand for pollination and the supply of wild bees, suggesting that successful future harvests in those areas may depend more and more on managed honeybees.

“The shortfall is most dramatic in areas that focus on specialty crops like apples and berries, which are especially reliant on pollinators,” the Christian Science Monitor reported. That’s particularly worrisome news for Michigan growers, who produce the country’s second-most diverse array of food, including many pollinator-dependent specialty crops. Read more

Big win for the Great Lakes: Schuette says no to fish farms in public waters

MEC and allies have argued for more than two years that commercial fish farms have no place in our Great Lakes. This week, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette agreed.

“In an opinion released Tuesday, Schuette said net-pen aquaculture operators would have to register with the state, and laws related to aquaculture don’t permit registration of such facilities in Michigan’s Great Lakes waters,” the Associated Press reports.

While Ontario has allowed some fish farms along its Lake Huron shoreline, they have not been permitted in Michigan or other Great Lakes states. When proposals emerged for net-pen operations near Rogers City and Escanaba, MEC and a number of partners researched the risks, identified serious environmental and economic concerns and mounted a strong opposition.

“The Great Lakes are an irreplaceable resource that we must carefully steward, not only for our use but for future generations,” Schuette tells Michigan Distilled. “It is a priority of mine to protect these waters. The professional work relationship the MEC has provided, along with their expertise, has helped me carry out my duties on such issues as this important opinion on aquaculture.”

Schuette’s opinion was the latest in a series of statements from state officials sharing our view that net-pen aquaculture is too risky for the Great Lakes.

  • The MIRS newsletter reported (subscription required) Jan. 3 that Jamie Clover Adams, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, “doesn’t envision a day when commercial net pen aquaculture would be allowed by Michigan in the Great Lakes.”
  • Last March, three state agencies recommended against allowing aquaculture in Michigan’s Great Lakes waters, citing serious environmental and economic risks identified by MEC and partners. The recommendation came a few weeks after statewide polling found nearly seven in 10 Michiganders were against opening the state’s Great Lakes waters to fish farming. Read more

With spring in the air, MEC is shaping a plan to protect pollinators

Editor’s note: This post is by MEC intern Teha Ames.

A serious problem that should not be overlooked by the state of Michigan and its residents is the decline of pollinator populations.  Pollinators include bees, butterflies, beetles, hummingbirds and other animals that help flowering plants reproduce by transferring pollen from plant to plant. Pollinator population declines have been linked to habitat loss, parasites, pathogens, pesticide exposure, climate change and other factors. A global assessment of pollinators published in February found a growing number of pollinators are threatened with extinction.

The services pollinators provide are essential for feeding the world and for supporting agricultural jobs. In 2014, President Obama issued a memorandum highlighting why honey bees and other pollinators are important in the United States. “Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year in the United States,” it noted. The memorandum also established a Pollinator Health Task Force between several government agencies to combat the problem. In its 2015 strategy to protect pollinators, the task force laid out three clear nationwide goals: reduce honey bee colony losses during winter to no more than 15 percent within 10 years; increase the eastern population of monarch butterflies (which includes Michigan’s monarchs) to 225 million by 2020; and restore or enhance 7 million acres of land for pollinators over the next 5 years.

Since Obama issued the memorandum, several states have joined the fight for pollinator protection. One state that has not created a pollinator protection plan yet is Michigan. Fortunately, MEC and other supporting stakeholders are helping the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to create such a plan.Honey bee Read more

New fund supports expansion of healthy food across Michigan

A new loan and grant fund aims to improve public health and drive economic growth in Michigan by expanding access to healthy food in underserved communities.

The Michigan Good Food Fund, a public-private partnership launched in June, will provide funding to food producers, distributors, processors and retailers, who are often overlooked by traditional banks. The fund’s supporters say the loans and grants are an important step toward decreasing obesity rates among the 1.8 million Michiganders—including 300,000 children—who live in communities with limited access to healthy food.

The fund’s core contributors are Fair Food Network, Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, W.K Kellogg Foundation and Capital Impact Partners. By 2020, the partners plan to raise $30 million for the fund and ensure that 80 percent of residents have healthy food options, with 20 percent of the food consumed in Michigan sourced from within the state.

The fund is a positive step that is well-aligned with efforts by the Michigan Environmental Council and the Healthy Kids Healthy Michigan coalition to reduce childhood obesity, said Tina Reynolds, MEC health policy director.

“We will work alongside partners from the American Heart Association who are trying to put together state dollars to help seed the fund,” Reynolds said. “We will be involved with legislative meetings, education and outreach, and engaging key members of the Legislature to support these dollars.” Read more

Honeybee swarm!

This honeybee swarm in a residential neighborhood is terrifying, unless you know a bit about honeybees. I learned from the wise old hands from the Southeastern Michigan Beekeepers Association who taught me and several dozen other newbie classmates the ancient art and science of this fascinating trade/hobby last year.

But nothing could fully prepare me for the chaotic Sunday evening of trying to “capture” this swarm after the property owner breathlessly called me to her back yard. For a veteran beekeeper it would be a routine event. For me – and my brave wife Karen who accompanied me – it was a thrill, a first, and a learning experience filled with mistakes, stings, and the surreal moment when I realized bees were inside my protective face veil! Read more

A Sensational Moon Rising Over Michigan: How to Make the Most of This Weekend

Super Moon

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like
On Jupiter and Mars

-Frank Sinatra

In other words, it’s almost the weekend and it’s springtime. So you need a fantastic Saturday plan. Well, what could be better than a Pure Michigan enviro-chic date night watching the ‘super moon’ rise?

This nature-rich date idea will score high points for originality, romantic quality, cost effectiveness and sustainability levels (which is important, because women are more attracted to green behavior).

The moon Saturday is not just a full moon; it’s a ‘super moon’.  It will be slightly closer to earth than normal from our perspective, so it will appear 14% bigger and 30% brighter than usual. And this ‘super moon’ is going to be the best in the last 18 years. Read more

Sustainable Spirits!

At the Michigan Environmental Council we’re willing to do just about anything to help the environment. And if that means drinking a locally crafted beer or glass of Michigan wine, then so be it!

This Friday in Lansing we’re inviting you to a celebration of local beer, wine and spirits at our Green Drinks Lansing event. Admission is free, it’s informal, and there is a trio of fascinating experts lined up to share their wisdom. (More details below).

One thing I really appreciate about MEC is that when we host an event or meeting, local food, drinks and vegetarian options are all taken into consideration. Environmentally friendly and socially responsible vendors are always the first choice and often are a requirement. I appreciate that. It’s walking the talk. What’s more, it really does make any event better, creates a sense of shared camaraderie in local choices, and helps support Michigan’s economy. Win-win-win.

Plus, let’s be honest – most environmentalists are craft beer snobs. And with good reason.

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