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Crawford County Land Conservation Committee discusses ‘CAFO situation’
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CRAWFORD COUNTY - About a dozen citizens attended the meeting of the Crawford County Land Conservation Committee Soil and Water Concerns meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 13. The citizens were there to offer public input on the ‘CAFO – update/discussion’ agenda item.

“We have not yet received any CAFO applications, but all signs are pointing to something developing with Roth Feeder Pigs,” County Conservationist David Troester told the committee. “DATCP recently made a presentation to the Marietta Town CAFO study group, and apparently the future of their town’s moratorium and study group is in question.”

Troester reported that he had talked with Marietta Town Clerk Clifford Monroe and Study Group facilitator Meredith Sime. He said that Clifford had asked him questions about the county’s livestock facilities permitting process.

“I talked with county corporate counsel Mark Peterson,” Troester reported. “Other counties in the state have enacted moratoriums in the last six months, and there is precedent in Crawford County with our moratorium on frac sand facilities.”

Committee member Wade Dull reported that he heard that “it will be two years before there is a pig in a building.” Committee member Don Olson pointed out that the next meeting of the committee would occur in just three weeks on Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 10 a.m., and that would be their next opportunity to further discuss the situation.

“Meredith Sime contacted me to ask if Marietta Township rescinds the moratorium and disbands the study group, then could the study group convert its efforts to providing our committee with information instead,” Troester said.

Committee chairman Buzz Esser asked the question, “if the county were to enact a moratorium, would it have any bite?”

Forest Jahnke of Crawford Stewardship Project (CSP) responded that DATCP will allow a CAFO moratorium to extend for two years. He pointed out that the towns and the county also are empowered to enact zoning and to exercise village powers.

Troester posed the question of what the goal of a moratorium would be – wait for revisions to ATCP 51 to be approved? Troester pointed out that funds are very tight in the county, and there is currently no money available to pay for extra staff in his department.

Esser agreed with Troester, saying “there is no pot of gold or money tree available to us.”

Study Group member Janet Widder took exception to the discussion of what the ‘costs’ of enacting a moratorium would be.

“We have to start by focusing on what is necessary to protect the health and safety of Crawford County residents, and then decide if it is worth devoting the funds to the effort,” Widder said. “Our citizens health is in the balance with our county’s decisions about whether to allow more CAFOs to operate here.”

Jahnke pointed out that the county has more resources than the towns do.

“Marietta Township is unlikely to implement zoning or adopt a livestock facility siting ordinance,” Jahnke observed. “What we are seeing is big changes in agriculture, and the State of Wisconsin seems totally dysfunctional to respond at this time. Therefore, a moratorium is appropriate.”

Committee member Kim Moret pointed out the declaration of bankruptcy by the nation’s largest dairy processor Dean Foods that had hit the press the previous day.

“The collapse of the dairy industry is because consumers insist on cheap food,” Moret declared. “The farmer needs to be able to make a living.”

Citizen input

Marietta Township resident Dave Collins discussed his concerns with the 5,500 sows plus piglets facility AV Roth is proposing to place on a ridge overlooking the Kickapoo River.

“We have a fractured and vulnerable underlying karst geology, and right in the area where AV proposes to put his facility we have sinkholes, a walk-in cave and a dry waterfall,” Collins told the committee. “The whole area is surrounded by steep slopes and highly erodible land, and these carry water down the hill into an area where there are two dozen families with wells on Kickapoo Valley Road. CSP monitors the surface water quality down there, and we’ve already seen readings off the charts for E.coli – we can’t afford to take any more risks with people’s water and health.”

Jahnke briefly explained the magnitude of E.coli readings that had been taken recently at the sampling location near the homes on Kickapoo Valley Road, and reported that “the DNR is already very concerned.”

Buzz Esser questioned Jahnke about why the levels are so high even before the proposed CAFO is built.

“The nutrients are running off the landscape in the increasingly heavier rainfall events our area has been seeing,” Jahnke said. “With the contamination levels we’re already seeing, I don’t see how the area can handle the manure from a 600-million manure lagoon being spread on 1,000-1,500 acres nearby.”

Ken Cornish added that ATCP 51 and DNR WPDES permits do not restrict operators from using the kind of drag line hose manure distribution systems, which have been involved in three major spills and fish kills in our area in the last several years.

Marietta Township resident Carl Schlecht owns what he described as ‘a parcel of waterfront property in the impact zone of the proposed CAFO.’ Schlecht’s is one of the two dozen residences and wells on Kickapoo Valley Road.

“Basically we are still using 10thCentury technology to manage agricultural nutrients,” Schlecht told the committee. “Further, AV has already informed us that his proposed facility is just the tip of the iceberg.”

The committee briefly discussed a recent communication to “neighbors’ from a group formed to oppose the  proposed Roth Feeder Pig expansion, Kickapoo Stewards, which conveyed the following statement:

“It has been determined that a local farmer who owns four farm properties in the area stated that if AV Roth gets a permit to build a feeder pig CAFO, this farmer will build finishing pig CAFOs on his properties. This is a potential for five CAFOs in a very small, sensitive karst area. Overnight, Crawford County could change from a beautiful place to live, with a balance of traditional farms and a valuable tourist destination, to a hog CAFO dominated landscape with grave concerns for the quality of our drinking water.”

The missive went on to say:

“Iowa is already polluted and CAFOs are now eyeing Crawford County where the land is cheap and taxes low. If the people of Crawford County don’t act now, they may lose their quality of life forever.”

An issue raised by AV Roth at the study group meeting two days prior was discussed by the group. At the study group meeting, Roth had requested that the records of the meeting should reflect that “less than 10 percent of Crawford County’s farmland is covered under a nutrient management plan (NMP). He said that because a minimum of at least 50 percent of the farmland is not operating under a NMP, it is therefore impossible for the county to determine whether the current rules in place are sufficient to protect water quality in the county.”

Troester told the meeting participants that two townships in the county have adopted Farmland Preservation Program (FPP) zoning, which allows landowners with nutrient management plans to take advantage of tax credits. He said that a total of 75 to 80 farms in the county have nutrient management plans, as does any facility, which will store manure more than 30 days per year or will store more than 7,000 cubic feet of manure. Of the latter, he said there about “about a dozen farms like that in the county.”

Independent-Scout reporter Gillian Pomplun pointed out that the State of Wisconsin has not provided full funding for enforcement by county land conservation departments of the existing laws and rules regarding livestock facilities, or DNR WPDES water quality permits, for many years.

“Basically, it is up to our underfunded and understaffed county land conservation departments to monitor nutrient management plan compliance,” Pomplun pointed out. “This would include going out and performing field inspections to ensure that the manure from a CAFO is being spread where it is supposed to be spread, when it is or isn’t supposed to be spread, and in the proper amount that it is supposed to be spread.”

Committee member Don Olson asked Troester, “does your department monitor nutrient management plans?”

“We try,” Troester responded. “With farms enrolled in FPP, an inspection is required every four years.”

Study Group member Janet Widder observed, “it’s great that the county is working on bringing septic systems up to compliance, but CAFOs are not equally required to be responsible for the nutrients they are producing.”

Talk with counsel

Committee chairman Buzz Esser, having heard the comments from citizens at the meeting said that he would “have corporate counsel Mark Peterson work on writing a CAFO moratorium.”

Committee member Wade Dull reminded those present that “the county board will have to vote to approve a moratorium.”

Esser said that the issue would be discussed at the committee’s next meeting. He said that he would invite Mark Peterson to attend the meeting.