Dairy industry seeks to ‘curb’ local rules for livestock near St. Croix River

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CAFO pork in North Carolina. (Photo by Emily Sutton, Waterkeeper Alliance, via Flickr)

Two Wisconsin statewide dairy lobby groups, joined by two farmers from Polk and Burnett counties, have called on the state’s Department of Agriculture and Trade Policy to review new ordinances recently passed in northwestern Wisconsin. As previously reported on St. Croix 360, in recent months a coalition of rural towns has been working to pass similar ordinances to prevent pollution from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

This week, the Dairy Business Association and Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative wrote to state regulators asking for an assessment of the orders’ compliance with state law. Their argument is basically that cities don’t have the legal power to say how large-scale livestock facilities can operate.

“Cities claim to rely on a city’s general policing power, a city’s ability to regulate nuisances, and a local municipality’s jurisdiction to prescribe livestock bylaws, even though no evidence exists. has been provided that the Department of Natural Resources or the DATCP have reviewed and approved any order as required by law,” wrote Chad Zuleger, a lobbyist for industry groups.

The letter (PDF) urges the agency to act, noting that three of the cities have already adopted their version of a model ordinance developed in partnership, and the other three may soon join them.

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Local advocates who supported the city’s efforts said the ordinances were carefully crafted and fall under their authority. Complicated legal issues abound, but simply put, the Wisconsin Legislature has given state agencies a lot of power over CAFOs, but still allows local governments to regulate operations as long as their policies are based on facts and Science.

Andy Marshall, a local lawyer and landlord who has been deeply involved in the ordinance effort, said he was confident the ordinances would stand up to the challenges.

“Trade Lake has done a ton of research and writing work on not only its CAFO Operations Order, but also the CAFO Study Committee Report – which is approximately 130 pages and includes over 200 quotes from articles by scientific and industrial research,” Marshall said. “The report is incorporated into the order by reference and provides science-based conclusions that support the order.”

He also asked how a private organization could ask the government to spend taxpayers’ money and resources to conduct such a review. One of the cities referenced, Trade Lake, has not even implemented the policy yet as it struggles to complete the application forms that will be required.

“[The] request is, to say the least, premature,” he said.

The Wood River, a tributary of the St. Croix River downstream of the areas where the proposed Cumberland CAFO would apply manure. (Greg Seitz/Holy Cross 360)

Regardless, says Marshall, the ordinances are necessary to ensure that new CAFOs do not harm health, pollute lakes, rivers and groundwater, or destroy property values.

“Wisconsin’s regulations partially address the millions of gallons of feces, urine and process water these plants produce but are poorly enforced,” Marshall said. “Health issues, air pollution, carcass disposal, biosecurity, fire safety and road damage are just a few of the other issues our local ordinances address.”

Lisa Doerr, a Polk County farmer and CAFO opponent, said the operation orders are meant to prevent the kinds of problems recently seen in Wisconsin. For example, it regulates the disposal of dead animals.

“Our city ordinances only apply to giant animal factories like the one in Jefferson [County] which must have killed 2.7 million chickens,” Doerr said. “The townspeople were unaware that the plant would compost birds infected with highly infectious avian viruses. [flu] at the end of a residential driveway. A Barron County turkey plant in Jennie-O just announced that it needs to kill nearly 50,000 birds. We don’t know where these carcasses will go. Under our orders, factories are required to submit biosecurity, depopulation and disposal plans.

The only official CAFO proposal in the area currently is Cumberland LLC’s plan for a facility at Trade Lake that would house up to 26,000 hogs and produce 9 million gallons of waste each year. The facility would be used for pig farming and would almost certainly require nearby facilities to finish the pigs to market weight, and it is likely that other related operations would follow.

Area residents report that interest from businesses like Iowans-owned Cumberland is high.

“We know the big cattle industry wants to get into northwest Wisconsin,” Doerr said. “They approached many landowners to buy land. They spent thousands on lawyers and lobbyists in Madison. They want our land, our air and our water.

In recent years, local governments aware of this possibility have instituted moratoriums and worked to enact new protections. The goal has been to clearly communicate to the companies behind any new CAFO proposal what the community expects.

“If corporate agricultural interests want to do business in our backyards and take advantage of our local resources, it is only fitting that our local ordinances require these industrial farms to show how they will protect our lakes, wells and our firm against contaminants and pathogens. “, said Marshal.

The farm groups’ letter says the new orders would add fees and require additional reporting, as well as reducing the number of animals allowed and limiting opening hours. The groups also say the ordinances were crafted and passed without state review or approval.

Trade Lake Town Hall (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)

CAFO critics say state review of the new orders is unnecessary because the policies were developed under a separate law from the Livestock Facility Location Act. State.

“[O]Our cities have developed operations ordinances that are based on the Wis law. 92.15,” Doerr said. “Under this law, cities are not required to have an ordinance reviewed or authorized. We have drafted the strongest legal protection possible.

Under the model ordinance developed by the city consortium, large livestock facilities may need to apply for a permit, which could include conditions to protect human and animal health, “safety and general welfare, prevent pollution and the creation of private nuisances and public nuisances”. , and preserve the quality of life, the environment and existing small-scale agricultural and livestock operations.

There are currently only a few CAFOs in the Sainte-Croix River watershed. A dairy farm in the Willow River watershed, owned by out-of-state people, caused manure runoff that killed fish in a nearby trout stream and was possibly linked to extremely high levels. high levels of harmful nitrates in a nearby well. Another large dairy near Shell Lake has had problems in the past, although the family that owns it recently took major steps to prevent pollution.

Marshall pointed out that lobby group objections to the new ordinances do not apply to the many small and medium-sized farms that exist in the region. The new requirements would only apply to new proposals and expansions that exceed the CAFO threshold.

“So it is interests outside of Trade Lake, who want to take advantage of our resources and risk damaging our health, our air and our water, who now seem desperate to challenge the work being done by Trade Lake and other local communities.” , Marshall mentioned.

Keep CAFO coverage of St. Croix 360 coming soon.

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