GBTU CAFO Position Paper

GBTU CAFO Position Paper

March 4, 2014

Green Bay Press – Gazette Editorial Board

Green Bay Chapter Trout Unlimited – Position Paper on CAFO’s (Industrial Dairies)

Randal Rake, President

Founded in 1969, the Green Bay Chapter of Trout Unlimited works to conserve, protect, restore, and reconnect our communities and coldwater resources throughout northeastern Wisconsin. Our targeted efforts improve the quality of trout steams and habitats degraded by natural events and poor human management practices. We concentrate on physical stream reclamation and restoration projects, public water access, advocacy, and youth education with outdoor experience opportunities.

We find the following to be true of CAFO’s in North East Wisconsin:

  1. Truly a public health hazard, there is ongoing polluting of ground and surface water occurring from farming operations large and small. This pollution occurs even though the operations are following permitted procedures and large-scale industrial dairies amplify the problem.
  2. Steams, waterways, soils and communities in this area are being degraded by the amount of waste being produced that exceeds the carrying capacity of the land.
  3. Unique soil conditions (karst or fractured bedrock) in this region are particularly susceptible to contamination.  Large rainfall events exacerbate the problem and are catastrophic to life.
  4. If a municipality was responsible for the amount and type of waste as created by CAFO’s, the sewage would need to undergo proper scientific treatment before any of the water is passed back into local watersheds.
  5. There is no real-time monitoring of the applied waste leaving these operations and surrounding fields and the effect on ground and surface water.  Issues to be addressed for monitoring include the process, scope and cost.  We find it reasonable for these operations to pay for monitoring as a cost of doing business.
  6. The Wisconsin DNR, does not have the resources or personnel to monitor these operations.
  7. We do not have any knowledge of the amount of underwriting insurance for these large operations.  Are they covered in the event of a catastrophic event?  Are they covered for the many years it may take to restore a local eco-system contaminated with waste products?  As a community, we need to look no further than the Fox River system and PCB contamination to find an example of pollute first and deal with it later.
  8. We are not aware of any government and/or industry award to formally recognize and promote farms with best practice methods throughout the state.
  9. There are dairy farming operations throughout the state that are good neighbors by utilizing best land stewardship practices and operating without harming the environment and people.
  10. These operations require large amounts of fresh water and are applying for high capacity well permits that degrade local water levels at the expense of others.
  11. Large scale CAFO’s meet none of the four requirements of Sustainable Development.
    1. Reduce the use of fossil fuels: These businesses are highly fossil fuel intensive from feeding the animals to trucking waste.
    2. Reduce concentrations of substances that accumulate in nature:  These businesses locally contaminate land and water with fecal coliform and E. coli bacteria, nitrates, phosphorus, hormones and multiple farm chemicals.
    3. Reduce degradation and destruction of nature by physical means: CAFO’s compromise and destroy the carrying capacity of the land.
    4. Meet human needs fairly: These operations are not being good neighbors by producing pollution, noise and odors.

Our local Chapter, in concert with the Wisconsin State Council of Trout Unlimited, does not oppose the development of CAFOs but rather would like to see:

  1. Tighter monitoring of existing farms.
  2. Discretion used in the issuing of permits to more than one farm per watershed.
  3. Close examination of the geological aspects of any CAFO site to address potential harm to surface and groundwater.

Position paper and background from the Wisconsin State Council of Trout Unlimited

Agriculture is important in Wisconsin’s economy and contributes to the livelihood of many people. The state’s freshwater resources-its streams, rivers, inland lakes, Great Lakes coastal waters, and groundwater-also contribute to the economy and quality of life. Excessive use of manure, chemical fertilizer, and pesticides often degrades the quality of streams and other surface waters, and sometimes harms groundwater, a major source of drinking water.

The dynamics of the dairy farms in Wisconsin are shifting toward Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) from smaller family owned farms. CAFOs are defined as farms containing 1,000 or more animal units. Wisconsin Trout Unlimited urges that a closer look be taken at the regulations and permitting practices of existing and future farms. These farms often apply manure, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides to land at high concentrations. Where CAFOs occur in landscapes that contain trout streams and other surface waters, regardless of size, quality of these ecosystems can suffer.  According to the EPA, states with higher concentrations of CAFOs experience on average 20 to 30 serious water quality problems per year as a result of manure management issues.  Pollutants associated with CAFO waste are nitrogen, phosphorus, pathogens, salt, antibiotics, arsenic, pesticides and hormones. The degradation of water quality creates unfavorable conditions for aquatic life and sometimes results in fish kills. Another concern is the amount of ground water extracted. A typical CAFO will use 52.5 million gallons of water in a year for their daily operations, with the potential for significant effects on aquifers and groundwater flows to area streams.

We recommend the following to minimize potential adverse effects of CAFOs on trout streams, other surface waters, and groundwater in Wisconsin:

  1. That the WDNR and Wisconsin DATCP consider soil type and geology in the CAFO permitting process. CAFOs in areas with sandy soil or where shallow soil overlies fractured bedrock pose particular risks to trout streams and groundwater. Two farms in Adams County are now spreading 14,000 loads of manure annually on 54,000 acres of land in areas with sandy soils. Testing of soils in those areas is suggested to occur only once every four years.
  2. That the WDNR and Wisconsin DATCP place limits on the size and density of CAFOs in order to minimize the threat of CAFOs to surface water and groundwater. When construction is completed on the New Chester Dairy with plans for 9,100 animals, which is located 10 miles to the Southwest of an existing CAFO with 4,300 animals, there will be 2 farms drawing from the same watershed.
  3. That the WDNR and Wisconsin DATCP increase the frequency and intensity of water quality monitoring (surface water and groundwater) at risk locations and surrounding areas. A pumping permit was issued to the Richfield CAFO with full knowledge and acceptance of the scientific evidence and ongoing research that Pleasant Lake will lose 2 inches of water each year and nearby streams such as the Roche Cri, Tagatz and Chaffee will have reduced stream flows of 5% at a pumping rate of 52.5 million gallons per year. These efforts would result in quicker detection of threats to trout streams and other aquatic systems, as well as increased preventive or remedial actions.