MARIETTA TOWNSHIP - After many meetings where the group continued to “storm and norm,” the Marietta Township CAFO Study Group got down to their core business at the meeting on Monday, Dec. 16. The group began to hear what they call “read outs” from the sub-committees charged with obtaining and collating ‘scientifically verifiable findings of fact’ about the potential impacts on the health, safety and welfare from CAFO (confined animal feeding operations) farming operations.
The two readouts were delivered by Janet Widder of the Health Sub-Team and Kat Tigerman of the Safety Sub-Team. The full read outs are not available to the media or public until they have been presented to the town board at their next meeting on Monday, Dec. 23, 7 p.m. at the Marietta Town Hall.
Generally, the subject of the readouts delivered was as follows:
Health: nitrate, pathogens and pesticides in groundwater; health problems for humans associated with all three; mechanisms for the spread of viruses from fecal matter in the environment; antimicrobial resistance from use of human-relevant antibiotics in animal agriculture; and multi-drug resistance of infections.
After Widder finished her ‘health’ readout, group facilitator Meredith Sime posed the question of whether any of the impacts documented in the studies presented by Widder can be linked to specific agricultural practices. There was discussion about how nitrate in groundwater could be linked both to manure from animal agriculture and chemical agricultural fertilizers from row crop production.
Local CAFO owner AV Roth pointed out that as of two-to-three years ago, use of human-relevant antibiotics in animal agriculture had been banned because farmers are aware of and concerned about the problem as well.
“When use of antibiotics in CAFOs is discussed in general, I want to make it specifically clear that in my operation less than one percent of the animals in my facility are treated with antibiotics,” AV Roth said.
Doug Spany, a landowner whose property shares a property line with Roth Feeder Pigs, and a former grassfed dairy and meat producer, pointed out that it makes a difference whether manure is applied to ground covered in plants versus to bare ground.
Safety: karst geology and its vulnerable water aquifers.
Tigerman specifically discussed findings on the impacts of extreme rain events on a fractured sandstone karst geology. She made the point that in a karst area, surface and groundwater are “pervasively interactive.” Tigerman also cited information about collapses of karst geology underneath surface impoundments in Minnesota, and the resulting environmental issues.
Facilitator Meredith Sime observed that the Study Group will need to do further research to determine the impact of weather on the potential for contamination resulting from a CAFO operation. She said the Study Group also needs more information about the risks associated with using drag line hoses to move manure from storage to field.
Janet Widder stated that she has seen documentation from the EPA that super fund clean up projects would not even be considered in a karst area.
The three Sub-Teams formed by the study group to collect, discuss and report on scientific findings are as follows:
Health: Bob Mitchell, Janet Widder, AV Roth, Meredith Sime
Their research areas are: nutrition, water (usage rate, contaminants/pollution), air quality, herd disease, animal carcass disposal, health care of workers, manure spills, anitibiotic usage, and origination of feed.
Safety: Ken Cornish, Susan Robinson, Carl Schlecht, Kat Tigerman
Their research areas are: road traffic, drag line accidents, manure spills, CAFO stringent rules, sink holes, field capacity for manure, extreme weather events.
Welfare: Sandy Collins, Karen Roth, Christine Roth, Doug Spany
Their research areas are: employment, salaries/benefits, tax income, property values, quality of life, land/nutrient benefits, legal liability.
In other business, the Study Group”
• discussed the action item from the last meeting which called for AV Roth to provide the statutory citation which is the basis for him telling the town board that Marietta Township’s CAFO Moratorium is “illegal.” AV Roth told the group that, upon the advice of his attorney, he will not disclose that information to the group. The group agreed to ask the town board to obtain such a citation from the town’s attorney Eileen Brownlee.
• heard from facilitator Meredith Sime that the Marietta Town Board has three options with respect to regulating CAFO operations in the town: adopting a livestock facility siting ordinance; adopting zoning; or adopting ordinances regulating specific agricultural practices. Sime observed that the board has already communicated lack of interest in taking on livestock facility siting authority or adopting zoning in the town. The group agreed that Sime should ask the board when she reports to them at their next meeting, about their interest in adopting ordinances regulating specific agricultural practices and show them some examples from other counties.• discussed the implications of a possible Crawford County CAFO Moratorium on the future of their group. There was consensus that if the county does not enact a moratorium, that the Marietta Study Group would continue as long as the moratorium remains in place. If the county votes to adopt a moratorium, then the town board will need to decide whether to keep their moratorium in place, and whether the study group will continue. There was also discussion about whether an individual could serve both on the town’s study group and the county’s study group, and agreement to ask the town board for an answer to this question.