George T. Neyer PBB Collection, 1974-2018 (Scattered), and undated
Using These Materials
- George T. Neyer PBB Collection is open for research.
- Neyer, George T.
- The collection, 1974-2018 (Scattered) and undated, documents the impact of PBB on the Neyer family and their cattle and dairy farm, their ongoing efforts to educate themselves and the public about the dangers of PBB, in the media, and politically, and to fight for financial reimbursement in Circuit Court, and to understand and document the impact of PBB on their health.
- 1.25 cubic feet (in 3 boxes)
- Collection processed and finding aid created by Marian Matyn
- Scope and Content:
The collection, 1974-2018 (Scattered) and undated, documents the impact of PBB on the Neyer family and their cattle and dairy farm, their ongoing efforts to educate themselves and the public about the dangers of PBB, in the media, and politically, and to fight for financial reimbursement in Circuit Court, and to understand and document the impact of PBB on their health. Parts of the collection were generated or collected by brothers David and George “Tim” Neyer. The collection has several broad series. The first and largest of these, over half of the collection, is collected documentation of the disaster and its impact. Research journal articles, newspaper and magazine clippings from local, state, and national publications, reports, fliers, and newsletters compose about half of the collection. Also in this series are correspondence, fliers, bills, and related information Neyer and his family collected from researchers, physicians, politicians, Michigan State University, Farm Bureau Services, the PBB Health Studies, a variety of beef and agricultural organizations. There are nine folders of materials from the Michigan departments of Agriculture and Public Health, later Community Health. Also included are communications, newsletters, and other information from organizations which sought to educate and inform farmers and the public about PBB and/or advocate for the farmers, notably the PBB Action Committee of Reed City (2 folders). A second series is the documentation of the direct impact of PBB on the Neyer family and farm as recorded the Neyer brothers’ ongoing efforts to tell the story from their perspective in the media, including newspapers and on television, in family cow photographs, family correspondence to Neyer and to politicians by Madden relatives, health test records, and the Neyers’ claim in Circuit Court, and related materials and correspondence with lawyers Abood, Abood and Abood, P.C. MI. Lastly, Tim’s efforts as a member of the PBB Citizens Advisory Board for Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health and its MI PBB Registry are documented in five folders. The collection is organized by size, alphabetically and chronologically.
Health test results are in Box 1 in 3 folders: Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health, MI PBB Registry, Correspondence, Test Results of George Neyer and Informational Materials, 2004-2018 (Scattered), undated; MI. Dept. of Public Health, Long-term PBB Study, Correspondence, Proposal, Forms, Test Results of George and Kacey Neyer, 1975-1988 (Scattered); MI. Dept. of Public Health, Long-term PBB Study, Correspondence, Test Results of George Neyer, 2000-2012 (Scattered). In 2023 Archivist Marian Matyn obtained permission from George and Kacey Neyer to retain and make available for public research the family’s medical test results. Copies of the permission form are in the relevant folders in Box 1.
Processing Note: A total of .5 cubic feet of materials, mostly acidic or poor-quality newspaper clippings and articles, such as thermal copies, were returned to the donor as per the donor form. Photocopies of these items were retained in the collection. Also returned to the donor were a few items that were peripheral to the collection, such as copies of general family photographs. All photographs remaining in the collection were sleeved for preservation and access purposes.
- Biographical / Historical:
George Timothy “Tim” Neyer is the son of Frank A. (1913-1981) and Edna Fern Martz (1915-2012) of Isabella County, Michigan. Frank and Enda married on December 30, 1939 in Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Mount Pleasant. Liza was the daughter of William and Floy (Fish) Martz. One of her siblings was her sister, Liza Martz Madden. Together Frank and Edna had the following children: Mary Ann Neyer (later married Henry Woltz), David Arthur (married Carol), James Terrance (married Rose), Virginia Eileen (married Leroy Withey), William “Bill” Joseph (married Mary Jo), and George Timothy “Tim” (married Jo Ann). (This information is from the obituaries of Edna Fern Neyer (Clark Funeral home online, accessed Feb. 2023) and Frank A. Neyer (Morning Sun, May 6, 1981).
David started farming with his father in 1961. After marrying Carol in 1964, David farmed full time. In 1968 David and Carol bough6 out his dad and brother, Terry. They continued increasing and improving the herd. Younger brothers Bill and George began helping while in school and after they graduated helped full time and started their own herd. They always bought feed from the Farm Bureau Elevator in Mount Pleasant. On December 1, 1974 David, Bill and George formed a co-operation called Neyer Farms Inc. at 168 Wing in Isabella County. (see the history before the court case in Box 1 folder: Neyer Farms Inc. vs. Farm Bureau Services and MI Chemical Co., MI Circuit Court Draft, Supporting Documents, 1976).
Between July 1973 and July 1974 the Neyer herd ate feed contaminated by polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) that was accidentally mixed into feed furnished by Farm Bureau Services The Neyers found out that their herd was contaminated on April 12, 1975 when Liberty Dairy Company of Evart, Michigan, would no longer accept their milk. Meijer Food Stores, which did not want to sell any poisoned products to consumers, pressured diaries to test milk for PBB. In May 1975 the Neyer herd of 391 animals was condemned by the State of Michigan due to the concentration of PBBs in their diary milk (.45 ppm), which was higher than the then acceptable tolerance of .30 ppm. The Neyer herd was destroyed on June 5-6, 1975 and buried in a PBB burial pit in Kalkaska County. Before April 12, 1975, the Neyers, like many Michigan farmers, unknowingly feed their animals poisoned feed, ate poisoned meat and dairy products themselves, and sold poisoned food products to unsuspecting consumers while seeking expert knowledge to verify the impact of PBB (see Tim’s story in Box 1 folder: Moyer, Response to Neyer’s PBB Program Suggestion Letter, 1975).
The Neyers were one of many farm families in Michigan whose herds were condemned, who struggled to make ends meet, while dealing with high levels of stress and misinformation as government and other public officials tried to blame the farmers, all the while struggling to find answers. Farmers did not want to sell tainted food products. Frank and Edna were encouraged by her sister, Liza Madden to gather and retain information, write to the newspapers and “FILE YOUR CLAIM.” She also was proud of her nephews’ actions, Tim’s to get information on the television about PBB (letter from Liza to Edna and Frank, June 9, 1975) and David’s efforts “arousing the public,” and Liza advised Edna and Frank not to worry about any backlash (letter from Liza to Edna and Frank, June 27, 1975).
The Michigan PBB disaster is the worse and largest mass poisoning in the history of the United States. The effects of PBB in humans are multi-generational. Farmers fought back through the media, informed themselves by gathering information, some formed the PBB Action Committee, others marched on Lansing’s Capitol, participated in public hearings and a number of health surveys. Some also sued in court for damages and to verify who was to blame, Farm Bureau Services and Velsicol Chemical Company, later Michigan Chemical Corporation. There was much anger and distrust amongst those affected due to the slowness of officials to react and the lack of support for farm families in distress due to PBB, resulting in a recall petition to remove Governor Milliken from office.
In June 1975 David Neyer corresponded with Abood, Abood and Abood, P.C., in Lansing, Michigan, about suing in court to recover losses due to PBB destroying the brothers’ farm. The case of Neyer Farms vs. Farm Bureau Services and Michigan Chemical company Docket no. 75-996165-NP began in the Isabella County Circuit Court in December 1975. The Neyer brothers settled for just over $350,000, minus attorney fees, in July 1976 (see Box 1 folder: Abood, Abood and Abood, P.C., Correspondence with David Neyer, 1975-1976).
David, Carol and Tim, wrote letters to the Editor of the Mount Pleasant Daily-Times News on March 30, 1975 after the paper described the disorganized efforts of farmers during a protest at the Capitol to which farmers brough a truck full of dead cows. Both brothers felt readers should condemn the disorder of state government for not helping farmers dealing with PBB and the big companies who were not being held liable and forgive the farmers who had done everything they could to inform the public and be appropriately and respectfully treated (see Box 2 folder: To The Editor, Mount Pleasant Daily Times-News, Neyer, March-April 1976).
Tim left farming permanently after the PBB disaster began. He later worked for Mitsubishi and served as a member of the PBB Advisory Committee of Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health, to inform those who had health issues caused by PBB to enroll in the new health survey study. (This information is from the collection.)
In 2023 Neyer and his wife, Jo Ann, lived in Weidman and David and his wife, Carol, live in Mount Pleasant.
- Acquisition Information:
- Acc# 77434
Arrangement is by size, alphabetically and chronologically. .
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
Dairy farming--Economic aspects--Michigan.
Dairy farming--United States--History--20th century.
Cattle-Feeding and feeds--Michigan.
Michigan. Circuit Court (Isabella County)
Michigan. Department of Community Health.
Michigan. Department of Public Health.
United States. Department of Agriculture.
PBB Action Committee, Inc.
Abood Law Firm.
Michigan Bankers Association.
Michigan Beef Wholesalers.
Michigan Cattlemen's Association.
Michigan Legal Services.
University of Michigan. Medical School.
Emory University. Rollins School of Medicine.
Farm Bureau Services, Inc.
Velsicol Chemical Corp.
Neyer, George T.
Neyer, David Arthur.
Green, James, 1960-
Bekesi, J. George.
Albosta, Donald J., 1925-2014.
Riegle, Donald W., 1938-
Corbett, Thomas H.
Milliken, William G., 1922-2019.
Michigan--Politics and government--20th century.
Michigan--Trials, litigation, etc.
Mount Pleasant (Mich.)--History.
Using These Materials
George T. Neyer PBB Collection is open for research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Published articles and reports are copyrighted by the authors and/or publishers. George Timothy Neyer “retains intellectual property and copyright to his personal and family’s story for written, film, or documentary purposes,” as per the donor form.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
George T. Neyer PBB Collection, 1974-2018 (Scattered), and undated, Folder # , Box #, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University