TOWN OF MARIETTA - With a howling wind, driving rain and spectacular bursts of lightning outside, more than 60 citizens gathered in the Marietta Town Hall in Crawford County for a meeting to discuss enactment of a 12-month CAFO moratorium. The moratorium would affect livestock facilities with more than 1,000 animal units, known as Confined Animal Feeding Facilities.
After hearing lengthy input from citizens both opposed and in support of the moratorium, the town board cited Wis. Stat. 19.84(2) to take a brief recess to meet in closed session. Town Clerk Clifford Monroe stated that the purpose of the closed session was to discuss the matter of the moratorium that was the subject of the special meeting called by the board.
Boscobel Dial editor David Krier questioned the legality of the closed session, and asked if the vote would be taken in open session.
“Yes, the vote will be taken in open session,” Monroe responded. “The board just needs a chance to discuss the matter privately before returning to open session.”
When the board returned to open session, Monroe read the language of the moratorium. When he came to section nine, he announced that he would call for a vote.
Town Chairman Teddy Beinborn and Supervisor Eric Sime voted “yay,” and Supervisor Reggie Lomas voted “nay.” The moratorium was enacted in the town for a duration of 12 months effective August 5, 2019. All three supervisors and the town clerk signed the document in front of the meeting participants.
A key part of the moratorium was the creation of a group, which would collect studies and facts around the issues of “health, safety and welfare of the public.”
The study group, ‘Rural Land & Infrastructure Conservation Working Group,’ (RLICWG) composed of township citizens is being led by Meredith Sime. Other members currently serving as part of the study group are Sandy Collins, Kat Tigerman and Sue Robinson. Other citizens interested in joining the study group should contact Sime or town clerk Clifford Monroe.
Opening the public input portion of the agenda, Meredith Sime posed a few questions to the board about the direction for the RLICWG.
“What are the board’s expectations for the purpose of the study group?” Meredith Sime asked.
“We need you to get information from all the people who could be affected by the proposed Roth expansion and ensure that everyone has a voice in this process,” Town Chairman Teddy Beinborn replied.
“We have been on the phone with DNR, DATCP, the town’s lawyers, the county, the state – if there’s an acronym out there, we’ve talked to it,” Town Clerk Clifford Monroe said. “We have to have facts.”
“Do we have the latitude to conduct our own research, and can we make contact with AV Roth and Crawford Stewardship Project,” Meredith Sime asked.
“Yes and yes,” Monroe responded.
“When will you need to see our group’s report?” Sime asked.
“We would prefer to receive information from your group on an ongoing basis, and a monthly report at board meetings would be good,” Monroe said.
“The language in the proposed moratorium is that the final report must be furnished to the board within 10 months of the moratorium’s enactment,” Forest Jahnke said.
“Will there be a budget for the study allocated, for instance if study group members need to travel?” Meredith Sime asked.
“There will not be a budget specifically created for the study, but you can bring proposals for funding to the monthly board meetings to seek approval in advance for any expenditures,” Monroe replied.
“Who will be our primary point of contact on the town board,” was Meredith Sime’s last question.
“I will be your primary point of contact,” Town Chairman Teddy Beinborn said.
Public input at the meeting centered around a similar list of topics as had been discussed at previous meetings.
Those topics included: vulnerable karst geology; water and air pollution; runoff and increasingly large rainfalls; property values; roads – public safety, damage and repair, frozen road law; health – sub-therapeutic antibiotics, antibiotic resistance, MRSA, Salmonella, respiratory illness, nitrate; local control and regulation; hearings on ATCP51 revisions; upcoming DAWS water study in Crawford, Vernon and Richland counties; Driftless as a biodiversity hotspot; industrial agriculture – big agriculture, small and mid-size family farms; climate change; social fabric of the community; and water pollution in Iowa and challenges with herd health.
AV Roth and people who opposed passage of the moratorium brought up: farmers need for nitrogen; septic systems and water pollution; legality of the moratorium; damage to roads; social fabric of the community; property values; antibiotics; blaming farmers; manure storage pit construction; and herd health.
Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo, Professor Emeritus, Geology, spoke about karst geology and how it makes groundwater vulnerable.
“The two rock formations in our area’s geology that make our groundwater vulnerable to pollution are limestone and dolomite, which are easily dissolved by weak acids,” Dr. Rodolfo explained. “This dissolution results in cracks, fissures, sinkholes and caves, which allow water and contaminants from the surface to travel down into our aquifers.”
Rodolfo said that water moved only about an inch per day, so it percolates in very slowly, and is thus, impossible to clean out.
“Once our aquifers are polluted, they are polluted forever,” Rodolfo said. “And further, it is impossible to know what kinds of geologic weaknesses may be located under a heavy impoundment of manure, and those underlying weaknesses will eventually result in a collapse which would have catastrophic negative impacts on water quality.”
AV Roth asked Rodolfo what kinds of soil and geology conditions it would take to prevent contaminants from getting into groundwater.
“That’s the point – our counties in Southwest Wisconsin are impoverished with little political clout, so the necessary studies have not been done here,” Rodolfo said. “It is looking likely that in the near future, the needed studies will be done in Crawford, Vernon and Richland counties, and that is why we need to pass this moratorium and see what the water and geology studies will tell us.”
Forest Jahnke from Crawford Stewardship Project (CSP) reported that he had recently visited the Shimpac property, a neighbor to Roth’s proposed new CAFO facility.
“There is a cave on the Shimpac property so large, you don’t even have to duck to walk into it,” Jahnke reported. “The whole area is also covered with springs and sinkholes, all of which are direct conduits to groundwater.”
Jeff Robinson’s farm is 1.7 miles away from Roth’s proposed CAFO.
“I moved here to graze cattle, and moving manure around either on trucks or in pipes means that it has the possibility to spill,” Robinson said. “If there is a spill, who is going to pay to clean up the springfed ponds that my cattle drink from?”
AV Roth was quick to point out that his farm had never experienced a spill. At one point, he became quite agitated and shouted at the crowd.
“CAFOs are highly regulated regarding manure spreading, and are prohibited from spreading within 300 feet of a well,” Roth explained calmly. “If there were to be a manure spill from my operation, I would be damn f**king sure to clean it up.”
Several neighbors referenced the recent news about the Wild Rose Dairy CAFO manure spill in Vernon County, the second spill from the facility into Otter Creek in less than two years. In both cases, neighbors noted, the spill had resulted from failures in the dairy’s manure handler’s piping system.
Forest Jahnke said that as far as remediation for polluted wells, the onus is all on the individual well owners to repair their wells to secure safe drinking water.
Many residents expressed concern for the amount of manure that would be generated by the facility, the need to spread the manure on nearby farm fields, and the increasingly large and unpredictable rainfalls the area has seen in recent years.
“I understand that our area had karst geology underneath it, and every farmer I know agrees that runoff of water and nutrients in our highly erodible terrain is our number one problem,” AV Roth told the crowd.
John Mayo, who owns land on nearby Kickapoo Valley Road expressed the opinion that the landscape and terrain of the area cannot take the amount of waste that would be generated by Roth’s facility.
“There’s no way with all the large rains that there is not going to be runoff,” Roth’s neighbor in Wauzeka Paul Pederson said. “Every year a wall of water comes down my valley, and because the water table is so high, my basement has been filled with water all summer.”
AV Roth sticks to his guns that manure is a valuable agricultural input that is needed by area crop farmers. He says that if they don’t apply manure, they will use synthetic fertilizers instead, and either way there will be the potential for runoff and pollution.
A town resident who works with septic systems spoke up against passage of the moratorium.
“Our county is behind in making sure that all septic systems are brought up to code, and it’s not right to blame the farmers for water pollution,” he said. “I support AV 100 percent.”
Property values continued to be a huge topic at this meeting about the proposed Roth facility. AV Roth continued to cite a study from Minnesota, which shows that proximity to a CAFO causes property values to increase.
Neighbor Dave Collins, who publishes Midwest News, created a map showing the location of the proposed Roth facility, with concentric circles showing what areas are half a mile, and one, two and three miles away.
“Within one mile of the facility, you can expect property values to decline by 43 percent,” Collins explained. “Properties that are within three miles will decline in value by 10 percent.”
Collins said that even now, with just the rumor that the CAFO will be built, properties ‘in the shadow of the hog CAFO’ already are experiencing declines in land values.
Damage to roads and public safety was another large topic, and AV Roth, town residents and the town board all agreed it is a serious consideration.
Larry Kellogg lives a half mile down the road from the proposed facility on Harvest Lane.
“There have been lots of vehicles, motor cycle tourists and others using that road all summer,” Kellogg pointed out. “Narrow gravel roads like Harvest Lane are very dangerous, and putting extra commercial traffic on the road seems like it is an accident waiting to happen.”
Kellogg says he has a cattle crossing across the road – “will the trucks be able to stop when my cattle are crossing?”
Another neighbor, Jeff Robinson, who lives 1.7 miles away pointed out that drivers of agricultural vehicles are not required to have CDLs.
“Highway 131 in the south valley is very narrow, with no shoulder, and the grades going in and out of Steuben and Wauzeka are eight percent grades,” Robinson pointed out. “We have the potential to have a lot of inexperienced drivers driving on some very challenging and dangerous roads.”
Robinson further shared that this spring, a driver has “pretty much had to have four-wheel-drive to get up and down Harvest Lane,” and that the road already needed to be rebuilt by the township.
“Farmers with the bigger equipment are tearing up our town roads,” Town Chairman Teddy Beinborn stated. “We are already asking farmers to pay to rebuild the roads they damage.”
“The last thing I want to do is bust up the town roads,” AV Roth said.
Health concerns were another big topic residents brought up.
“I spent 30 years in the career of healthcare administration,” neighbor Ken Cornish who lives on Kickapoo Valley Road said. “I agree with Carl Schlecht who brought up the topic of use by CAFOs of sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics and the growing problems of antibiotic resistance in humans,” Cornish said. “The nightmare of hospitals is the increasing incidence of antibiotic resistant infections like MRSA and, increasingly, Salmonella.”
AV Roth said that his operation does not use sub-therapeutic antibiotics, and indeed, that vets can no longer prescribe them.
“Less than one percent of the sows in my operation use antibiotics, and the antibiotics I use with my hogs aren’t used in humans,” Roth said. “Furthermore, there have been no documented cases of MRSA moving from hogs to humans.”
Roth also emphasized that one of the reasons he likes to have his operation located in Crawford County is because there aren’t very many operations with hogs, which reduces the threat of diseases entering his herd.
Edie Ehlert from Freeman Township, President of CSP’s Board, talked about the dangers of air pollution from hydrogen sulfide and ammonia.
“The kinds of contaminants to air quality that come from CAFOs can be very dangerous for kids, people with asthma, and people suffering from COPD,” Ehlert said.
Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo emphasized the dangers of nitrate pollution in water.
“Nitrates are a persistent contaminant in water, and can be very dangerous for pregnant women, young children, and the elderly,” Rodolfo said. “For old guys like me, being exposed to unsafe levels of nitrate in drinking water can make problems with dementia in older people worse.”
Perhaps one of the most moving topics upon which there was broad agreement was concern for the social fabric of the community.
“CAFOs rip apart the social fabric of communities,” neighbor Dave Collins said. “I don’t want to see that happen here.”
Neighbor Kevin Colson, whose ancestors first settled in Marietta Township in 1871, noted that what the industrial agricultural model was doing was pitting neighbor against neighbor, and basically helping the rich to get richer.
“I have a college degree in economics, but really the most important things I know about economics I learned at school in Wauzeka,” Colson said. “My Dad taught me that what the true wealthy elites do is to get the little people, including AV Roth, fighting among ourselves, and then laugh all the way to the bank.”
Colson said that this situation has put Crawford County and Marietta Township at “the crossroads of their futures.” He said that the big hog industry has polluted Iowa, and they are looking to expand into Crawford County.
“I support this moratorium because we need answers to a lot of questions,” Colson said.“I love this community, I grew up here, and I have spent time down in Wauzeka coaching young men about ethics,” AV Roth said. “I want our young people to stay here in our community and not move away, and that is why I built my operation.”
Town of Marietta
Crawford County, WI
Moratorium on Livestock Facilities Ordinance #2019-01
WHEREAS, pursuant to authority granted under Wisconsin Statutes § 60.10(2), the Town Board of Supervisors of the Town of Marietta is authorized to exercise powers of a village board under Wis. Stat. § 60.22(3);
WHEREAS, pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 61.34, the Town Board has the power to act for the health, safety, and welfare of the public, and may carry its powers into effect by license, regulation, and other necessary or convenient means;
WHEREAS, Town residents and property owners have expressed concerns about the importance of preserving the quality of life, the environment, water quality, property values, Town roads and infrastructure, and existing livestock and other agricultural operations in the Town with respect to the potential impacts of large livestock facilities within the Town;
WHEREAS, there is a need for adequate time to determine impacts and whether creation of Township ordinances with requirements that are more stringent than state standards and/or other ordinances relevant to livestock facilities are necessary to adequately protect public health and safety and to determine whether adequate resources exist to enforce and administer any such ordinance; and
WHEREAS, other areas of the state and region with similar fractured carbonate (karst) geology have documented unacceptable levels of drinking water contamination, and baseline data for this area will be taken and analyzed by the Driftless Area Water Study (in Crawford, Vernon, and Richland Counties) in 2020; and
WHEREAS, it is deemed to be in the best interest of the Town of Marietta to enact the
“Moratorium on Livestock Facilities Ordinance”.
NOW, THEREFORE, the Town Board does hereby ordain as follows:
This ordinance is adopted pursuant to the powers granted under the Wisconsin Constitution, and the Wisconsin Statutes. Further, this ordinance is adopted pursuant to the powers granted to the Town Board under the grant of village powers pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 60.22(3) and the power to act for the protection of public health and safety under Wis. Stat. § 61.34.
The title of this ordinance is the Moratorium on Livestock Facilities.
The purpose of this ordinance is to allow the Town of Marietta to impose a moratorium providing adequate time to study, review, consider and determine whether creation of a Livestock Facilities Licensing Ordinance with requirements that are more stringent than state standards and/or other ordinances relevant to livestock facilities are necessary to protect public health or safety in the Town of Marietta in light of the unique environment and characteristics of the area and the concerns expressed by Town residents and property owners. Further, the imposition of a moratorium will allow the Town of Marietta to determine whether it has adequate resources to enforce a Livestock Facilities Licensing Ordinance and/or other ordinances relevant to livestock facilities.
All definitions located in the Chapter ATCP 51 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code are hereby adopted and incorporated by reference as if fully set forth herein.
5) MORATORIUM IMPOSED
A moratorium is hereby imposed on new livestock facilities within the town that will have 1000 or more animal units and on the expansion of any pre-existing livestock facilities that are undergoing an expansion if the number of animal units at the expanded facility will be 1000 or more, provided that the moratorium does not apply to persons who have acquired legally vested rights prior to the adoption of this ordinance.
6) ACTION AND STUDY DURING MORATORIUM
The Town Board hereby plans to create and task a Rural Land & Infrastructure Conservation Working Group consisting of the Town Board and resident stakeholders to study the effects of large livestock facilities.
Rural Land & Infrastructure Conservation Working Group shall, during the course of the moratorium imposed by this ordinance, research, analyze, and synthesize scientific literature and research regarding the impact of livestock facilities with 1000 or more animal units on township roads, property values, ground water, surface water, air quality and other identified potential impacts, specifically as those issues apply in the Town of Marietta.
The Rural Land Conservation Working Group shall report its recommendations on appropriate regulatory approaches relative to livestock facilities with 1000 or more animal units to the Town Board at least 60 days prior to the end of the moratorium adopted pursuant to this ordinance or as soon as the Working Group has developed recommendations, whichever occurs earlier.
7) DURATION OF MORATORIUM
This moratorium shall be in effect for a period of twelve (12) months from the date this ordinance is adopted by the Town Board, unless the Town Board rescinds this moratorium at an earlier date, or until the Action and Study contemplated by this ordinance is complete and the Town Board creates a Livestock Facilities Licensing Ordinance and/or other ordinances relevant to livestock facilities or rescinds this moratorium. This moratorium may be extended for up to twelve (12) months by a majority vote of the Town Board, if necessary, in order for the Rural Land Conservation Working Group to complete its responsibilities under this ordinance.
If any provision of this ordinance or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of this ordinance that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to that end, the provisions of this ordinance are severable.
9) EFFECTIVE DATEThis ordinance shall take effect and be in full force from and after its passage.