Tag Archives: Ashland

Proposed hog farm prompts Bayfield County to tighten regs

UPDATED: With a proposed factory farm threatening to foul Wisconsin’s “Crown Jewel,” the citizens of Bayfield County are not turning away from the stink or running from the fight.

State law prohibits the local jurisdiction from saying “no” to the proposed “concentrated animal feeding operation” in the town of Eileen, but the county on Jan. 26 adopted ordinances intended to tighten regulations and protect the health and safety of the area’s residents and the environment.

Bayfield County supervisors voted unanimously for an ordinance to create an operations permit for large-scale CAFOs and also for an ordinance to create an animal manure permit. The approach, creating local regulations on operations, is like the strategy local jurisdictions employed to control frac sand mines.

The grassroots Farms Not Factories  encouraged people to attend the meeting to show their support for stricter control and their opposition to the siting of the factory farm. The votes brought a standing ovation from opponents of the project, who are concerned with air emissions, odor impacts, water pollution, the release of pathogens and inadequate regulatory oversight.

The proposal

About a year ago, Reicks View Farms filed an application with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources seeking a permit to discharge annually about 6.8 million gallons of liquid manure — to be produced by 26,000 hogs at a planned breeding and feeding operation in Bayfield County. The manure would be stored in pits under covered barns and then injected into soil on about 1,300 acres in the Lake Superior watershed. Reicks wants to move the operation from Iowa because of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus that’s so devastating to suckling pigs. Animals would be raised at the Wisconsin Badgerwood CAFO and then shipped to Iowa.

An application filed with the state indicated the operation would create 27 new jobs, but didn’t say whether the positions would be permanent or what salaries they might pay.

Farms Not Factories says a document provided to county officials and prepared by Reicks stated the business selected Eileen because of “its natural seclusion” — referring to the area’s isolation from hog farms in Iowa, Illinois and other parts of Wisconsin.

The response

Wisconsinites who care about the state’s outdoors know about a different type of “natural seclusion” in the region, which is home to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Iron River National Fish Hatchery, North Country National Scenic Trail, St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge.

Wisconsinites familiar with the state’s geography also know that Eileen is in the Fish Creek Watershed and less than 8 miles from the Chequamegon Bay and Lake Superior. One of Farms Not Factories’ slogans is “10 percent of the world’s fresh water is more valuable to this planet than cheap bacon and pork tenderloin.”

Wisconsin already is home to about 270 large-scale CAFOs. The number has skyrocketed from about 50 in 2006, when Gov. Jim Doyle signed legislation setting basic state standards for CAFOs and removing local control over siting the farms. “That legislation was put in place to provide regulatory certainty for Big Ag,” said Mary Dougherty of Farms Not Factories.

The Badgerwood CAFO would be the first such operation in Lake Superior basin and the largest hog farm in the state. Farms Not Factories said the hogs at Badgerwood would produce as much waste as a city of 50,000 people.

A moratorium on the development of large-scale farms was enacted in both Bayfield after plans for Badgerwood emerged.

Since then, the project and possible responses have been under review.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said it is looking at the project, in part because of concerns about pollution raised by the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, whose reservation is east of Ashland on the Lake Superior shore, and the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, whose reservation is north of Bayfield.

The DNR agreed to do an environmental-impact statement and has collected a lot of public input — hundreds of suggestions and statements from citizens, scientists and advocacy groups. A draft of the EIS is yet to be released. Public comment would follow, then any revisions before the publication of a final EIS, which may or may not influence the state’s decision on the application for Badgerwood.

Meanwhile, the reviews seem complete in Bayfield and Ashland counties. 

A committee established by the Bayfield County Board of Supervisors studied the issue, guided by the dual goals of “having a thriving agricultural community and maintaining the public’s health and safety and a healthy environment,” according to its final report.

The committee studied issues relating to ground water, surface water, microbiology and air quality and recommended the adoption of the Large-Scale Confined Animal Feeding Operations Ordinance to require new or expanding livestock operations of 1,000 animals or more to obtain a county operations permit and meet any conditions attached to the permit.

The committee made some other recommendations, including the adoption of the Bayfield County Animal Waste Storage and Management Ordinance requiring new or expanding CAFOs to obtain a permit for storing and managing manure.

“We can’t legally say ‘no,’” said Dougherty, “So, as a result, we came up with this — because we have to do something.”

A poll recently released by Northland College’s Center for Rural Communities shows 63.3 percent of residents oppose the farm and there’s strong support for the county ordinances.

Nearly three-quarters — 72.5 percent — of households support the tighter local regulations at the county level. 

Residents’ top five concerns for factory farms are water quality, smell, divisions in the community, air quality and health risks.

These concerns are shared elsewhere in Wisconsin, which is why activists are developing a statewide coalition.

“We have to have this as a mass movement and say this type of agriculture is not Wisconsin,” said Dougherty.

Poll: Majority of Ashland, Bayfield county residents oppose proposed mega hog farm

Almost two-thirds — 63.3 percent — of Ashland and Bayfield county residents said they are opposed to the proposed Badgerwood LLC Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation in Bayfield County, according to the Northland College Public Opinion Poll released on Jan. 20.

The Northland College Center for Rural Communities conducted telephone interviews with a random sample of 701 households in Ashland and Bayfield counties in December regarding the proposed CAFO in the town of Eileen in Bayfield County and CAFOs in general.

When asked whether they favor or oppose the proposed CAFO in Bayfield County, 63.3 percent responded that they are strongly opposed or leaning toward opposition, 19.5 percent strongly favor or lean toward favoring it. The remaining 17.2 percent are neutral.

Bayfield County is exploring CAFO regulations that would be stronger than current state regulations. Nearly three-quarters — 72.5 percent — of households support tighter local regulations on CAFOs while 19.8 percent oppose tighter regulations, and 7.6 percent remain neutral. 

All participants were asked whether they agree or disagree with concerns on both sides of the issue. The top five concerns are water quality, smell, divisions in the community, air quality and health risks.

A majority of respondents are also concerned about harm to local fishing, decrease to property values, inhumane treatment of pigs, and harm to tourism.

Those who favor the proposed CAFO, are most concerned about missing out on jobs and sending the wrong message to other businesses.

“One of the most interesting findings is that regardless of where people stand on the issue, the majority are concerned that a CAFO will create divisions in the community,” Brandon Hofstedt, faculty director of the CRC, said in a news release.

This is the first of a regular series of public opinion polls, designed to capture the opinions of people living in the north woods region, according to the college.

“We were pleased with the number of people who participated,” Hofstedt said. “This is a timely and relevant issue, and people feel as though they can still have an impact.” 

In addition to opinion polls, the CRC will conduct regular environmental attitudes polls to gauge the beliefs and behaviors of communities over time. The CRC’s first survey will be conducted this spring, with a focus on winter recreation and climate change.

Interviewers asked 26 questions to a random sample of 701 households between Dec. 3, 2015, and Dec. 22, 2015. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.6 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. A summary of results can be viewed at www.northland.edu/crc/polling.

Acceptance grows in Wisconsin

John Smallwood and I thought we’d be able to cool off in the Northwoods.

But John, who is Fair Wisconsin’s advocacy and organizing director, and I found something during our retreat there that’s even hotter than the weather. From Stevens Point to Wausau, and from Ashland to Washburn and Bayfield, people are fired up with enthusiasm for LGBT issues.

The first leg of our tour began in Stevens Point, where on July 17, the Portage County’s Human Resources Committee took up domestic partner benefits. Just a few weeks ago, the Stevens Point Common Council passed such a measure 9–2, and the county is poised to do the same. The July meeting was the beginning of the process.

Meanwhile, Outagamie County Executive Thomas Nelson has been preparing a domestic partner benefits proposal of his own. Rolled out just this week, the measure is expected to be taken up soon by the full county board.

On our other stops in northern Wisconsin, we met with many community leaders and activists who are interested in learning about what they can do to advance LGBT equality. From organizing local Pride festivals to exploring nondiscrimination ordinances and domestic partner benefits, they’re coming up with some wonderful things “up nort” that we’ll be seeing in the months ahead.

There’s much work to be done to repeal our constitutional ban on marriage, but when communities such as Stevens Point, Janesville, Manitowoc, Racine, Kenosha, Eau Claire and beyond join Milwaukee and Madison in making their communities welcoming and inclusive, the message is clear: Wisconsin’s ready to move forward.

In the wake of our recent merger with Equality Wisconsin, Fair Wisconsin’s work to advance equality doesn’t stop with local ordinances. That’s why I’ve recently posted a job description for a new position: Southeastern Wisconsin regional program manager. In keeping with Equality Wisconsin’s tradition of maintaining an office and staff in Milwaukee, we will add this position to Fair Wisconsin to ensure that LGBT and allied activists, community stakeholders and elected leaders will be closely engaged in our work.

The regional program manager will lead several key efforts, including two of Equality Wisconsin’s original programs – Voices of Faith and the Rainbow Sanctuary Project. Aimed at engaging faith leaders and advocating for LGBT homeless youth respectively, these programs will continue Equality Wisconsin’s history of grassroots activism in our merged organization. Integrating these efforts into the current Fair Wisconsin programs will increase the combined leverage resulting from the unification of our organizations.

I’ve said it before, but I think it bears repeating: Together, we are stronger. 

As this position and the unification of our programs has developed, I’ve been extremely excited by the opportunity to create a structure and a model that will increase our organizational capacity over the longterm. Moving to a regional model means that we can build on the successes that both Equality Wisconsin and Fair Wisconsin have had in Milwaukee, while deepening our program efforts and grassroots organizing.

For more information on this position, how to apply, or the merger, feel free to visit fairwisconsin.com.

Katie Belander is executive director of Fair Wisconsin.