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Crawford County holds ‘Community CAFO Dialogue’
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CRAWFORD COUNTY - Faced with consideration of the health, safety and welfare impacts of allowing Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) to operate in the county, Crawford County elected to hold a ‘Community CAFO Dialogue’ to allow citizens to express their concerns or hopes. The event, held on Tuesday, Sept. 2, was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 45 citizens participated in the dialogue, facilitated by UW-Extension Community Development Educator Jessica Jayne Spayde, and other extension colleagues from around the state. Of the participants, 74 percent were from Crawford County, 13 percent were from neighboring counties, and 13 percent were neither. Fourteen of the 45 participants were from Marietta Township.

Spayde started the dialogue by outlining the groundrules for participation for group participants:

• civil and respectful dis-course 

• dialogue, not debate 

• honoring your experi-ence 

“Anyone who is attacking other people’s views, using a hostile manner, or threatening other participants will be asked to remove themselves from the meeting,” Spayde clarified.

Spayde said that participants would now be shifted into ‘break-out rooms,’ where smaller group sizes would allow greater opportunity for meaningful dialogue. In each break-out group, facilitators would lead the group in discussion of the following two questions:

1. What do you see as the health, safety and welfare issues around CAFOs in general?

2. What other areas do you think the CAFO Study Group should look into?

After the break-out sessions were complete, participants were all pulled back into the same room with each other. At that time, each facilitator reported what the individuals in their break-out room had discussed.

Topics discussed

• Water quality and quantity – the county should look at new or strengthened ordinances regarding clean water and manure, and explore compatibility between CAFOs and other land use rights

• After reading the article about the Karst Geology Exploration in the newspaper, I now understand why our sandstone aquifers are so vulnerable to contamination

• An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – I have a friend that lives in Kewaunee County and has raw manure coming out of her faucets

• Concern about rented land where manure is spread, and who is keeping an eye on that

• What is the cost of the potential future shortfall in growth of property tax revenues if citizens currently residing in the county or who may choose to reside in the county in the future, choose to live, purchase property, pay taxes, patronize local businesses, be a part of the county workforce, and send their children to the county’s schools, choose to live elsewhere because the CAFO is allowed to operate in the county?

• We need to look at what amount of manure spreading is a good fit for our county

• Worry about all the small farmers that can’t compete with the CAFOs, and that CAFOs will cause them to go out of operation

• Worry that allowing CAFOs in the county will make it harder to attract other forms of economic development

• Is there any evidence that Roth’s original CAFO has brought any meaningful economic benefit to the county?

 • Even if new rainfall data was used for manure pit design, impervious surface analysis, and nutrient management planning, with the pace of change in what some would describe as the “new normal” or as “climate chaos,” what kind of data would allow us to accurately project out over the useful life of this facility what prudent design metrics should be regarding annual rainfall amounts?

• Worry about a CAFOs negative impact on economic growth from tourism

• Extend the CAFO moratorium one year – something this important should not be rushed

• CAFOs are the agriculture of the past, and not the agriculture of the future, which will be focused on more sustainable and profitable models

• We need research on what the additional road maintenance expenses will be as a result of having another CAFO in the county

• We need to research what impact a CAFO will have on neighboring property values

• Look at an ordinance requiring that all land used for spreading CAFO manure be covered in living roots year round, and that more diverse rotations be grown to allow for more windows in the growing season for manure application

• Given the two manure spills at the Wild Rose Dairy in 2017 and 2019 were both caused by failures in drag line hose systems of manure distribution, we need to determine if using this method would be safe for our county

• The Study Group should hear from WGNHS Dr. Eric Carson about the soil maps for Crawford County he has just completed, and also about results of his research about the potential protective effects of the Rountree Formation of clay

• For a normal farm, it is estimated that three to four acres per animal unit of land is required – less is asking for trouble

• Take into account changing rainfall amounts in the specifications for design of the manure pit, for the impervious surface analysis, and for the nutrient management plan

• Focus on the health of the constituents in the area of the CAFO, and not just the economic aspects of the issue

• Extend the CAFO moratorium for one year

• We need to take into account all common sense concerns – not just legal concerns

• We need to try not to go too far – once that happens there is no going back

• We need commitment from our elected officials to take this issue seriously

• Extend the CAFO moratorium for one year to ensure the results of the DAWS Drinking Water Study will be taken into account

• Obtain case histories of known impacts to property values and tax revenue

• Evaluate the risk of MRSA infections from the waste of CAFOs

• The Study Group needs to look at the potential for economic development in the county, and attempt to place a value on the natural assets that are held in public trust for all residents to enjoy equally. A dollar value needs to be placed on a variety of things: value of the current and future CAFO facilities for the county’s economy; value of the health of our cold water fisheries in terms of bringing tourist dollars into our community, and for the personal use of county residents; and the value of clean air and clean water to county residents who live, farm, raise their families, and run businesses in the county? What loss in the county’s net position would result from damage to these assets?

• What kind of bonding would serve to make county residents whole in the event that our natural assets, held in public trust equally for all of us to enjoy, were damaged through the economic activity of only one of the residents of the county for whom these assets are held in trust?

• Deny the application because it is geologically inappropriate

• Wait for the DAWS results to submit a final report to the county board

• We need a broader economic analysis that evaluates alternative agricultural use of the land, and generates a cost-benefit analysis

• We need to think realistically about the county’s ability to regulate a CAFO before deciding to go ahead with permitting another one

• Take into account the potential impacts on wildlife

• Extend the CAFO moratorium for one year due to COVID-related delays

• Provide more public education events

• Consider other avenues in agriculture

• Farmers are not interested in harming the land

• Evaluate the impacts of a CAFO on roads and property values

Next steps

Spayde thanked all of the participants for taking time out of their evening to participate, and for observing the ground rules.

“Community engagement is a process, and so this event can’t just be a one hit thing,” Spayde said.

Spayde said that after the meeting was ended, each participant would receive a brief survey. She said that at that time there would be opportunity to submit additional comments.

“We will be providing a report about the feedback received in this dialogue to the CAFO Study Group, the Land Conservation Committee, and the County Board of Supervisors,” Spayde said. “The report will be publicly available on the UW-Extension website, and will be e-mailed to all participants as well.”

Spayde specified that all comments will be kept anonymous, and that she would be able to accept additional comments through the end of the week.