‘‍Stink In’ protest brings visibility to CAFO concerns

By Jim Massey, Country Today, 11/16/2015KidvsCAFO
MADISON — Peo­ple op­posed to the ex­pan­sion of con­cen­trated an­i­mal feed­ing op­er­a­tions in Wis­con­sin brought their mes­sage to the state Capi­tol steps Nov. 7 with what they called a “Stink In” protest.
About 100 peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing more than 20 or­ga­ni­za­tions gath­ered for the event, some dressed in cow and tur­key cos­tumes, to ad­dress what they de­scribed as the state’s “CAFO cri­sis and its dam­ag­ing im­pact on pub­lic health, wa­ter and air qual­ity, nat­u­ral re­sources, busi­nesses, prop­erty val­ues and ru­ral com­mu­nity life.”
Mary Dougherty, co-founder of Farms Not Fac­to­ries and one of the event or­ga­niz­ers, said it was fit­ting that the protest be held on the Capi­tol steps, since “the pro­lif­er­a­tion of CAFOs started in Madi­son with ATCP 51.”
Wis­con­sin’s live­stock-fa­cil­ity-sit­ing law, passed by the state Leg­is­la­ture in 2003, di­rected the Wis­con­sin Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, Trade and Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion to cre­ate rules re­gard­ing the sit­ing of live­stock fa­cil­i­ties in the state. Those rules be­came known as ATCP 51 and took ef­fect in 2006. They set stan­dards for sit­ing new and ex­pand­ing fa­cil­i­ties in ar­eas of the state zoned for agri­cul­tural uses and on live­stock op­er­a­tions ex­pected to house more than 500 an­i­mal units.
Dougherty, who has been ac­tive in op­pos­ing the sit­ing of a pro­posed 26,000-hog farm in Bay­field County, said the sit­ing law caused an “ex­plo­sion” of CAFOs that has reached about 300 farms in Wis­con­sin in 2015.
“Th­ese large farms are not some­thing the cit­i­zens of Wis­con­sin are nec­es­sar­ily ben­e­fit­ing from,” Dougherty said. “Th­ese farms have been granted reg­u­la­tory cer­tainty at the ex­pense of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. We would like our elected of­fi­cials to lis­ten to us — we need them to help us fig­ure this thing out.”
Dougherty said with an is­sue such as CAFOs, no one per­son can come up with a so­lu­tion on his or her own.
“But a group of peo­ple in­vested in the com­mu­nity, with the en­vi­ron­ment and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in mind, we can come up with some­thing re­ally solid that ev­ery­one can live with,” she said. “That’s all we’re ask­ing.”
Or­ga­niz­ers de­vel­oped a five-point re­quest to law­mak­ers: raise their aware­ness on the com­mu­nity im­pacts of CAFOs; sup­port en­force­ment of health and en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards al­legedly vi­o­lated by some of the state’s CAFOs; cham­pion up­grades in the Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources’ ca­pac­ity to en­force the law; en­sure that reg­u­la­tions and safe­guards are in place to pro­tect Wis­con­sin com­mu­ni­ties from CAFO con­tam­i­na­tion threats; and en­gage in “open, im­par­tial and sen­si­ble di­a­logue with im­pacted Wis­con­sin com­mu­ni­ties to seek work­able so­lu­tions for CAFO-cre­ated pub­lic risks.”
Scott Dye, re­gional co­or­di­na­tor for So­cially Re­spon­si­ble Agri­cul­tural Pro­jects, be­came ac­tive in the large-farm de­bate af­ter an 80,000-hog farm lo­cated next to his fam­ily’s farm in Mis­souri.
“The live­stock-fa­cil­ity-sit­ing law has been an abysmal, atro­cious act for these lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in Wis­con­sin,” Dye said. “One size does not fit all, cer­tainly when you’re look­ing at the karst to­pog­ra­phy in Green County, where a farmer wants to build a 5,000-cow dairy, or that god-aw­ful mess in Ke­waunee County. Lit­er­ally 30 per­cent of the pri­vate wells in the county are pol­luted. It makes you won­der how things could go so hor­ri­bly wrong.”
The Tuls fam­ily is propos­ing to build a large dairy farm in Green County, which would be the fourth for the fam­ily. The fam­ily al­ready has two large dairies in Ne­braska and a farm near Janesville.
About 300 peo­ple at­tended a Nov. 3 meet­ing in Mon­roe to learn more about the Green County pro­posal.
“The av­er­age-sized dairy herd in Green County is some­thing like 67 cows, so how many of those herds is a 5,000-cow dairy go­ing to put out of busi­ness?” Dye said. “What does Wis­con­sin want to see in the fu­ture in the coun­try­side? Do peo­ple want to be serfs push­ing but­tons and putting ma­nure into a hole in the ground, or do they want to be a strong agri­cul­tural state, as Wis­con­sin has tra­di­tion­ally been?”
Sev­eral or­ga­niz­ers were crit­i­cal of the Dairy Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion, a Wis­con­sin-based or­ga­ni­za­tion of dairy farm­ers, which they said has helped fa­cil­i­tate the move­ment to larger farms.
Tim Trot­ter, DBA’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion has never changed its po­si­tion of sup­port­ing fam­ily farms in any way pos­si­ble.
“Farm­ers make their de­ci­sions based on fam­ily and the land base they have, and they make eco­nomic and agro­nomic de­ci­sions that best suit the mis­sion of their fam­ily,” Trot­ter said. “We rep­re­sent small and large farms alike — they are all vi­tal to the Wis­con­sin dairy in­dus­try. It is short-sighted to judge a fam­ily farm based on its size. CAFOs have more strin­gent reg­u­la­tions (than small farms), and they are some of the most en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly op­er­a­tions there are.”
The ar­gu­ment that the size of an op­er­a­tion de­ter­mines a farm’s en­vi­ron­men­tal sen­si­tiv­ity “doesn’t hold up,” Trot­ter said.
“It comes back to the sci­ence,” he said. “When you get a site per­mit, you have to ad­here to the law de­vel­oped by our state Leg­is­la­ture.
“To me it’s all about com­mu­ni­ca­tions and un­der­stand­ing. There’s a com­mu­ni­ca­tion gap be­tween agri­cul­ture and con­sumers in gen­eral. What we’re see­ing is a symp­tom of that. A lot of peo­ple don’t un­der­stand what goes on on a farm to­day. In ab­sence of knowl­edge, peo­ple of­ten make as­sump­tions, and some­times as­sump­tions can be dan­ger­ous.”
John Peck, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Madi­son-based Fam­ily Farm De­fend­ers, said the live­stock-sit­ing law stream­lined the process for farm­ers to get per­mits to ex­pand or site new CAFOs.
“The hear­ings (for sit­ing per­mits) are a joke,” Peck said. “A per­mit­ting process where no one gets re­jected is not re­ally a per­mit­ting process.”
Peck said farm groups such as his have been look­ing for a leg­is­la­tor or leg­is­la­tors to chal­lenge the live­stock-sit­ing law.
“It seems to be re­ally dif­fi­cult to find any­one,” Peck said. “The rally was re­ally en­cour­ag­ing. I’m glad to see peo­ple are start­ing to ques­tion the law. We’re hop­ing the (En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency) will do some­thing if the DNR won’t.”
Dougherty said al­though rally or­ga­niz­ers haven’t been suc­cess­ful in get­ting a leg­is­la­tor to cham­pion the cause, they haven’t given up on the pos­si­bil­ity.
“(Tak­ing the is­sue to the Leg­is­la­ture) is prob­a­bly two or three steps down the road,” Dougherty said. “We’re look­ing for that one cham­pion who will have the courage to do what needs to be done.”
Dougherty said the move­ment hasn’t gained the groundswell nec­es­sary to show leg­is­la­tors who might step up on the is­sue that their con­stituents “have their back.”
“It’s David vs. Go­liath — it’s go­ing to take a lot of work,” Dougherty said. “We are peo­ple who just want to pro­tect our homes from an in­dus­try that is poi­son­ing our homes. If it can hap­pen any­where, I do be­lieve it is in the state of Wis­con­sin. I think we can pull it off.”
Dougherty said she an­tic­i­pates hav­ing an­other “Stink In” in Green Bay, per­haps in the spring, and other events to try to gain more vis­i­bil­ity for the is­sue.

 

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