Dear gentle reader, today’s column may be too graphic for you and if you are faint of heart when it comes to the issue of pig and cow manure I urge you to turn the page and continue on to the comics or today’s advertising supplement to this paper. Enjoy the color comics and please read the ads. A lot of people have gone to a lot of trouble to bring you this paper. For those of you who are less faint of heart please feel free to read on.
As reported in the Herald on April 25 by Samantha Stetzer, a Minnesota-based veterinary clinic is proposing a hog farm in the Town of Cleveland that would be a temporary home to 6,500 breeding sows (pigs). Why did I say temporary? Very simply because when you work that sow hard she has a tendency to leave this earth quicker than just your old pig on the family farm. The operation will be a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation). The translation for that is put as many animals into a confined area and work the heck out of them.
The United States Department of Agriculture provides the following information for us: CAFOs provide the following items for our table: 99.9 percent of chickens for meat, 97 percent of laying hens, 99 percent of turkeys, 95 percent of pigs, and 78 percent of cattle currently sold in the United States. So if you think Grandma and Grandpa are out working the 320 acre family farm for our dinner table you are wrong.
Over the course of several years, both cow and manure issues of CAFOs have come under intense scrutiny. The DNR reports that more than one-third of wells in CAFO intensive Kewaunee County were found to be unsafe because they failed to meet health standards for drinking water, according to a new study. Of course the DNR says it is too early to blame the farms. Well what happens when it is too late to blame the farms?
I do not belong to PETA, I am not a vegetarian, I do not belong to the Humane Association of the United States but I do know that things have gotten out of hand when we endanger our surface water, air, soil, ground water and the like to put food on our tables by using a massive CAFO operation. The number one problem is what do you do with all that manure?
The average CAFO in the United States produces the equivalent of liquid and solid waste of 16,000 people. Years ago we built sewage treatment plants to deal with human waste. Today no one would dream of lugging the sewage of 16,000 people just outside of town and dumping it. So why would we do it for 6,500 pigs or cows?
Recently in Chippewa County, the DNR is investigated manure runoff from the Mahr Brothers LLC farm in Stanley into a pond and a tributary near Hay Creek. Also state Department of Natural Resources officials said the agency was investigating a manure spill of reportedly tens of thousands of gallons in the Town of Emerald in St. Croix County. The spill occurred in late 2016 but was not reported until March 29. That spill occurred at a CAFO called Emerald Sky, which has 2,460 cows. Emerald Sky wants to expand to 8,000 cows.
If you are looking to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for assistance I suggest you seek a solution elsewhere. Chippewa County Conservationist Dan Masterpole is correct when he says the county’s hands are tied if the state of Wisconsin issues a permit.
My solution to the problem is not simple nor is it low cost. The fact is that you can only dump so much manure on a field and you have to store the waste on site. I propose requiring a waste water treatment plant for every CAFO in Wisconsin. Mom and Dad or Grandpa and Grandma farms are fast disappearing from Wisconsin and the nation. A CAFO is not a Mom and Pop operation any more. We are dealing with corporations. Let’s apply common sense solutions to corporation waste disposal. Treat it before you release it.
I do not belong to PETA, I am not a vegetarian, I do not belong to the Humane Association of the United States but I do know that things have gotten out of hand when we endanger our surface water, air, soil, ground water and the like to put food on our tables by using a massive CAFO operation.