Findings from a CAFO study group will headline a forum at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21 at the Dunn County Judicial Center in Menomonie.
CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) have been the subject of intense local interest and dispute, leading to large audiences at public CAFO hearings and to lawsuits disputing oversight and control.
A CAFO is a livestock operation that confines more than 1,000 “animal units” for more than 45 days. A single “animal unit” amounts to 1,000 pounds live weight of critters including dairy, beef, swine or poultry. In dairy cattle, for example, 700 dairy cows comprise 1,000 animal units or a CAFO. It would take 125,000 broiler chickens to constitute a CAFO.
At the forum, three members of Dunn County’s livestock operations study group will present key findings. The forum is organized by the League of Women Voters – Greater Chippewa Valley based in Menomonie.
In 2015, Dunn County’s average herd size was 136 cows. As of July of this year, the county had five permitted CAFOs of more than 1,000 animal units and another proposed. Since 2000, the number of CAFOs in Wisconsin has increased by 400 percent. While large-scale farming increases profitability for dairy farmers, small-scale farm operations and the local population express concern.
Controversies over CAFO farming include such things as the proper level of oversight, spills from manure containment facilities, siting of CAFO facilities, proximity of sites for CAFO manure spreading, and the role of the DNR in licensing and supervision.
Following the Dunn County study group’s eight-month-long investigation of CAFOs and their impacts on air and water quality, the local transportation system, and public health, the group published a lengthy document meant to guide local regulations. The 97-page document sets out key influences in the CAFO controversy.
Presenting for the study committee are Tom Quinn, chair of the committee; Dave Styer, CAFO owner; and Ron Verdon, president of Tainter Menomin Lake Improvement Association, a local water quality group.