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Conservation committee discusses CAFO study group membership
CC admin building

CRAWFORD COUNTY - The Crawford County Board of Supervisors voted 10-7 to enact a one year moratorium on new or expanding animal livestock facilities with greater than 1,000 animal units at their December 17, 2019 meeting. Called for in the moratorium is the formation of a ‘Special Study Committee.’ 

That committee is charged with “researching the issues associated with such operations [Confined Animal Feeding Operations)] and making recommendations to the Crawford County Land Conservation, Planning, and Zoning Committee regarding regulatory and police powers necessary to ensure the applicable regulations adequately protect the groundwater, surface water, air quality, public health and safety of residents.”

In the language of the moratorium, the membership of that committee is explicitly named, except for a “citizen representative to be appointed by the Crawford County Board Chairman.” In discussion, prior to passage of the moratorium, some members of the County Board of Supervisors expressed that this citizen representative should be drawn from among the county’s agricultural community.

“County Board Chairman Tom Cornford told me that the Land Conservation Committee should come up with a plan for the study group, and then send it to him for approval,” County Conservationist Dave Troester said. “His direction to me was to make sure that the committee membership is balanced, and its purpose is to look at facts.”

Other members of the special study group would be: Crawford County Land Conservation, Planning and Zoning Committee, the Crawford County Land Conservation, Planning and Zoning Department, the Crawford County Community Development Agent, and the Crawford County Department of Public Health.

The question of whether citizen representatives on the study group would be paid in an way, such as stipends and or mileage, was discussed. Committee members seemed to agree that neither would be offered to any citizens that agreed to serve on the study group.

There was also discussion about whether the study group would accept the results of the Marietta CAFO Study Group. Troester reported that he has reached out to Marietta Study Group facilitator Meredith Sime about that topic.

Possible members

At their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 14, the Land Conservation Committee (LCC) took up the business of naming specific individuals to the special study committee. Land Conservation Committee members Dave Olson and Kim Moret expressed interest in serving on the study group. County Conservationist Dave Troester will represent the Land Conservation, Planning and Zoning Department. Jessica Spade is the Crawford County Community Development Agent. Public Health Officer Cindy Riniker will represent the Crawford County Department of Public Health.

Kim Moret is a dairy producer in the county, and committee members expressed that were she to serve, she could represent agricultural community on the committee.

“Consumers want cheap food, and to achieve that we need economies of scale in agricultural production,” Moret said. “AV’s facility will create 20 jobs in the county and help to keep our young folk here - I think we should be helping him to expand.”

Supervisor and committee member Wade Dull suggested that someone from Marietta Township should sit on the study group.

Troester reported that Kari Retallic from the Wisconsin Pork Producers Association (WPPA) had expressed interest in serving personally or finding someone to serve on the study group. The WPPA’s mission is “to promote and protect the state’s pork industry in order to ensure its success now and in the future.” The group serves as a paid lobbyist for the pork industry in Wisconsin.

Forest Jahnke of Crawford Stewardship Project (CSP), Marietta Study Group member and farmer Janet Widder, and Marietta Township resident and landowner Susan Collins also expressed interest in serving on the county’s study group. Another name suggested was Wisconsin Farm Bureau board member and area representative Robert Nigh.

“Perhaps the WPPA and the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin could be asked to speak to the study group versus being made a member,” Supervisor David Olson said.

Supervisor Wade Dull said he felt that there should be a pork producer on the committee. Brainstorming and discussion revealed that as far as members of the committee were aware, AV Roth is the only pork producer in the county.

Consensus of the committee, at the conclusion of the discussion, seemed to be to recommend that the WPPA representative have a seat on the study group. Crawford Stewardship Project was to serve in an “advisory role, but not have a representative included in the body that will decide what will be in the final report provided to the county board.”

The members of the LCC agreed that they would meet next “in about three weeks” at a date to be decided, at 1 p.m.

Potential litigation

Kim Moret asked the committee, “what about the risk that having the moratorium will result in the county board being sued?”

Janet Widder said “it’s not just AV that can sue the county – any citizen or group of citizens could do that. County corporate counsel has said the moratorium is legal, and the board voted to put it in place.”

Forest Jahnke pointed out that AV will not be ready to actually file for a livestock facility siting permit from the county until the one-year moratorium is almost over.

 “It is my understanding is that even if Roth Feeder Pig were to file for their state permits tomorrow, by the time the state granted them their permits (under the fastest scenario possible) there would only be a couple months (if anything) left of the county moratorium,” Jahnke said. “At that point, it would make no sense to start a court process which would take much longer than simply waiting for the moratorium to expire.”

Dave Olson asked whether the state would act to change ATCP 51, the Livestock Facility Siting Rule that Crawford County’s ordinance is based upon, before the moratorium ends.

“At this time, the proposed changes to ATCP 51 appear to be dead in the water,” Troester said. “If any changes are to be made in the future, the state will have to start over from scratch, so this will likely be a process that will last years, not months.”

CSP’s Janke pointed out that there is also an ongoing process being undertaken by the DNR to draft rules for ‘Sensitive Area’ revisions to the state’s runoff management rule, NR 151. The drafting of the revision to the rule is also expected to take years before it could go to the Natural Resources Board, the governor and the legislature for approval.

“All of these changes at the state level which could impact rules for CAFOs will take longer than the one year duration of the county’s moratorium,” Jahnke explained. “So, as far as AVs application to the county, it is unlikely that any of that will be in place to affect his proposed expansion.”