I attended the 3 December, 2009 "Hearing" on the State of Wisconsin’s largest Dairy farm to date! For those who couldn’t attend, here’s what I saw. Look:
First, the DNR spokesperson stated the sole purpose of the hearing was to hear only comments germane to the modification of three issues: 1) whether the producer could double his current herd to 11,500 Animal Units, 2) an amendment in the Nutrient Management Plan that allows increases in liquid manure to be land-spreading over 12,000 acres with reduced State monitoring requirements, and 3) a reduced compliance schedule for evaluating processed wastewater and storm water discharges at the producer/owner’s request. (That’s right twice as many cows but a reduction in testing, say what!)
The DNR kindly allowed the producer to make introductory remarks that had nothing to do with any of the three issues. The owner said he and his two co-owners had been milking cows "before learning to ride a bike" and that he felt a commitment to the community, employees and "my people." He gave a commercial for a new brand of "miracle grow" they’re experimenting with—a clear, blue-juice produced from the 92 million gallons per year of liquid manure at their industrial Dairy. He actually held up the manure in what appeared to be a one-liter flat-bottomed boiling flask, and two similar flasks with chemical corn-fertilizer and manure and lastly the clear blue "miracle grow" solution.
He said, "this is what it’s all about. We want to be a good neighbor." There for a second I thought he was going to drink the kool-aid looking concoction. But instead, he smiled like a cat and said something about the decline in farming and the increased world population and that someone had to "feed the world." For a minute I felt like I was at an old time medicine road show. Because anytime I hear someone tell me they are going to "feed the world" I think about Gene Logsdon’s essay that states,
"Today "feed the world" is the forked-tongue hypocrisy that mega-companies utter while they try to monopolize the food business. No country, no company, no government can feed the world, especially when the cost of the food is greater than the people who need feeding can afford. Food is a much more complex thing than the "feed the world" enthusiasts want to understand. ..1) much of the world lives quite well without corn and soybeans or animal products fed with corn and soybeans. 2 Millions of people eat foods Americans have never heard of. The Mongolians thrive on horse milk...Feeding the world is not the problem. Teaching people how to feed themselves is the problem. But agribusiness doesn’t want people to know how to feed themselves.
But, strangely, no one got up to tar and feather this charlatan. It was a very polite audience, mostly filled with people pandering to the owners of CAFO-Rosendale for their business because they were either vendors or employees. Those in support mostly said these were nice guys who should be given a chance to work their magic or do whatever they wanted to do.
None of these supporters dealt with the directions to speak solely to the three issues of the hearing; I wanted to yell "Point of Order" but also to watch this circus as it unfolded under the auspices of "a Hearing" by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Those who spoke for allowing the permit mostly wore bright, blue shirts and hats handed out by CAFO-RD that read "Rosendale Dairy = Jobs matter." These were either vendors or employees of the CAFO from the Owners to the Public Relations person of the Dairy Business Association, a powerful lobbying group. It was obvious these people were not thinking about the long term consequence of allowing this industry to operate in this neighborhood; they just work for these operators. Not one of them lived anywhere near this industrial site.
In all, there were 59 speakers. Most of those who ask for the permit to be "Denied" were friends of the environment, defenders of family farms, neighbors of the CAFO and those seeking to slow this train wreck of a natural disaster down. "What's the hurry?" was a common refrain. People from other county stewardship concerns; chemistry and environment teachers, small farm agrarians, county ag agents, Sierra Club and Clean Wisconsin spokespeople and a State Legislator made salient points. All concerned and well informed citizens pleaded for reasonable consideration on behalf of the neighbors, the quality of rural life in Wisconsin, the lack of enforcement displayed to -date by the DNR and suchlike.
There were tears shed, too. Neighbors talked about a loss of freedom to open their windows on summer nights. Neighbors talked about being denied access to safely walking country roads because of the stench of the 4,000 animals there now and the increase of 13,000 (not an exaggeration!) trucks annually, carrying everything from manure to sileage over narrow county roads. (And that number will double with the expansion of this CAFO.) They spoke of the dust created by the traffic. And, of course, the toxic smell of ammonia.
The decision is just around the corner. The DNR has the responsibility to Grant/or deny the five-year permit within a limited time of its filing.
I’m willing to bet the permit comes through within the next month. Any takers on this one?