County OKs one-year moratorium on CAFO expansion

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By Ted Pennekamp

 

The Crawford County Board voted 10-7 during its regular meeting Tuesday to approve of an ordinance to impose a one-year moratorium on the expansion and creation of new livestock facility siting operations within the unincorporated areas of Crawford County.

Approximately 100 people were at the packed house meeting which spilled out into the hallway. Several spoke to the board before the vote was taken. 

The moratorium will allow for a study to be conducted  regarding a proposed concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) and its potential effect upon the drinking water of the surrounding area. The moratorium will go into effect as soon as it is published in the Courier Press, the county’s official newspaper.

The moratorium also provides for the creation of a Special Study Committee to analyze the impact of large-scale livestock facilities. The Crawford County Land Conservation Committee shall make a final report within 10 months of the effective date of the moratorium.

County Conservationist Dave Troester told the board that the county passed a livestock siting ordinance more than 10 years ago. He also said the county has not received any applications for a permit for a new CAFO or an expansion of an existing CAFO. It was noted, however, that A.V. Roth, the owner of Roth Feeder Pigs in Marietta Township near Wauzeka is looking into expanding his facility.

Troester said any farm with 1,000 animal units or more has to get a permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and has to have a nutrient management plan in order to control manure application, runoff and other factors such as odor and building setbacks. The nutrient management plan is monitored by DNR personnel. An animal unit is 1,000 pounds of any animal.

County Board Supervisor Gerald Krachey said many grain farmers in Crawford County are spreading manure on frozen ground and nobody is enforcing them. He said there is a lot of runoff and drainage ditch erosion because of these grain farmers. Krachey also said Marietta Township needs to enact a zoning ordinance to help take care of the problem. In addition, he said there are approximately 100 residents of Marietta Township who have septic system violations.

“Why isn’t Marietta doing zoning?” asked Board Supervisor Mary Kuhn. “They want the county to solve their problem.”

Several people pointed out, however, that the proposed moratorium is for the study of CAFOs and what the effects would be on manure runoff, erosion and groundwater contamination. The moratorium doesn’t involve grain farmers or septic systems.

“The purpose of the moratorium is to study CAFOs for the good of the entire county,” said Edie Ehlert of the Crawford Stewardship Project to a brief round of applause. 

The Crawford Stewardship Project was formed in July 2007 in response to a permit application by Roth Feeder Pigs Inc. The Crawford Stewardship Project fought against the licensing and permitting of Roth Feeder Pigs.

After some very well attended and, at times, heated meetings, the county’s Land Conservation Committee approved of the licensing of Roth Feeder Pigs in January of 2008, the first CAFO in Crawford County.

In her talk to the county board Tuesday morning, Ehlert also pointed out that the Crawford Stewardship Project, working in conjunction with the Crawford County Land Conservation office and Richland and Vernon counties, is moving forward with a well testing project and the Driftless Area Water Study.

Adam Voskuil, an attorney with Midwest Environmental Advocates, said the moratorium is not permanent and is not meant to punish farmers. He said the moratorium will  put a hold on permitting and licensing for the short term in order to create reasonable protection standards. Voskuil said the default standards of the state livestock siting law fail regularly when taking into account the local characteristics of the land and water, such as Crawford County’s hilly topography and karst (porous rock) geology.

Marietta Township grass-fed beef farmer Jeff Robinson said he farms 600 acres of grass and has no erosion problems. Robinson also said he is worried about all the other CAFOs that might come to Crawford County if Roth Feeder Pigs is allowed to expand.

An audience member said the Crawford Stewardship Project had 166 signatures in favor of a moratorium. Several people said they are not against A.V. Roth as an individual farmer, but that they are trying to protect the whole county.

Roth refuted that notion and said it is definitely a move against him as an individual farmer. Roth and a few county board members pointed out that the whole moratorium issue would have never been brought up in the first place if people hadn’t gotten wind of his plans. Nobody could refute that statement of fact.

Roth said he is a fifth-generation farmer and has 3,000 sows. He said there have been studies conducted regarding his operation that showed there is no concern for public health. Roth said he applies less than 1 percent antibiotics to his sows. He also said his expansion would allow for the hiring of 20 people who each would be paid $7,000 more than the average salary in Marietta Township.

Roth said he is in favor of continuing with the well testing and water testing in Crawford County without a moratorium.

“Every farmer cares about the drinking water,” said Roth. He also said he would like to see the county assist in getting more farmers to get a nutrient management plan so they can be even more effective in protecting the water. He said that his family, including is 1-year-old son drinks from their well.

Roth stated if he were to move forward with his expansion, his farm would be about 2/3 bigger than it is now, and he would be applying organic fertilizer rather than chemical fertilizer.

“I don’t think the moratorium should go forward,” said Roth. “The facility wouldn’t even be built for a year. We’re not going to do anything to damage the water.”

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