Factory Farm Threatens WI Trout Streams
submitted by Equal Exchange
Controversy around a proposed dairy CAFO near Richfield in Adams County, Wisconsin is getting and more more press in the Dairy State. From WUWM in Milwaukee:
The [Wisconsin] Department of Natural Resources is considering whether to issue a water quality permit for a proposed CAFO [confined animal feedlot operation] with 4,300 cows in Adams County.
One detail in Toner's piece especially caught my eye.
Bill Harke insists the proposed 4,300-cow dairy in Richfield would use techniques that reduce odor and protect natural resources. Harke is spokesman for Milk Source Holdings, the group applying for the water quality permit. Milk Source already operates three CAFOs in the state, together milking nearly 18,000 cows.
MilkSource is the same company that owns and operate Rosendale Dairy, which last year became the largest CAFO in Wisconsin with 8000 cows.
So far so good, for Rosendale, which is a relief (Rosendale has only been dinged once for a non-compliance, according to the DNR). But as pointed out in the above piece, the manure management plan looks frightening, particularly because of the karst topography on which the dairy sits (a landform where the where table rises very close to the thin top soil, making it vulnerable to CAFO pollution). Not much margin for error, there.
Nonetheless, Family Farm Defenders and a Coloma, Wisconsin resident, have filed a lawsuit to stop the state of Wisconsin's go-ahead for the Richfield dairy. They're asking for a review of the DNR's approval of the building plans for the farm. According to a Family Farm Defenders statement:
"[Our] legal filing questions the factual accuracy surrounding the factory farm's bid to locate in central Wisconsin, taking issue with the impact that 5,000 cows and their manure will have on water and air quality for residents of nearby towns in the area that has been known as a tourist magnet recognized for clean waters and quality fishing."
Interestingly, some of the other opposition to the Richfield CAFO is coming from sports fishermen and conservationists, who say the proposed CAFO is dangerous to Wisconsin trout streams. As Alistair Stewart of Trout Unlimited posted on Classic Fly Rod's forum:
Recently I learned of the proposed Richfield CAFO, in Wisconsin's Adams County, on the eastern edge of the Central Sand Plains Ecoregion, immediately adjacent to the Central Sand Hills Ecoregion. The potential environmental degradations caused by such a large facility in areas recognized for their environmental significance and sensitivity concern me greatly. The planned water resource impacts alone are staggering and frightening.
It's the "water resource impact" that seems to be the biggest threat. MilkSource says it will use 54 million gallons a year. But an article in the Stevens Point Journal says that amount may be grossly underestimated:
The crop farm previously on the land [where the proposed dairy will be built] drew on average about 37 million gallons of water a year, said Rachel Grieve, a DNR hydrogeologist. However, the crop farm drew the water in about four months for irrigating crops, while Richfield Dairy would draw it over the entire year.
Stewart could be right, in other words. The dairy's actual water usage could potentially be far greater, threatening the viability of trout streams -- and local tourism.
It's this collossal concentration of food that makes us realize why we do what we do at P6-member grocery co-ops. Concetrating all of our food production in one spot -- 8000 cows in one dairy! -- creates a host of problems economically and environementally.
Plus, it's important to recognzie that "buying local" won't, in and of itself, create a different food system. Not if food producers are simply re-creating huge, industrial operations locally.
By choosing milk and dairy products that come from smaller farms, we choose something far more sane and healing.