Townships consider recommendations for large livestock operation ordinances

Townships targeted by large hog facilities partner to study threats and pass protections.

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Hog CAFO in North Carolina. (Photo by Emily Sutton, Waterkeeper Alliance, via Flickr)

The rural areas between St. Croix Falls and Grantsburg, Wis. are organizing to protect their land, water, and people from the harmful impacts of proposed concentrated animal feeding operations. While action at the county levels has been largely stymied, several neighboring townships have banded together to create new regulations.

The towns of Laketown, Eureka, Bone Lake, Luck, Sterling, and Trade Lake are all part of a partnership approved last fall. Pooling their resources, the townships have begun building that necessary body of evidence required to enact strict rules. Wild Rivers Conservancy (formerly the St. Croix River Association) has been supporting the effort.

Under Wisconsin state law, local authorities cannot enact stricter regulations for confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) than the state — unless they back up the rulings with findings of fact.

The townships span northern Polk County and southern Burnett County, primarily in the Trade and Wood River watersheds, two wild tributaries of the St. Croix River. The region is at the center of concerns about potential CAFOs, with one proposal already submitted in the town of Trade Lake.

If approved, the Cumberland LLC facility would house 26,000 hogs in three massive barns, and spread about 9 million gallons of manure and other waste on nearby farm fields every year. CAFOs have polluted the air, lakes, rivers, and groundwater in many other areas. The townships are taking action to ensure any operations use the best possible practices to protect their neighbors.

While counties and other local governments can use zoning to keep CAFOs away from some areas, state law requires some part of the jurisdiction be left open to the operations. But local governments can also pass ordinances that dictate how any such facility will operate, and that’s what the town consortium has been working on. The shared effort is letting them create one set of findings of fact and develop a shared ordinance for consistency across the towns.

The proposed ordinance would require CAFO proposers to apply for an operations license from the township. The application would require a fee and significant amounts of information, and create an opportunity for a public hearing on the proposal.

CAFO proposers would have to include in their applications plans for dealing with air pollution, an economic and property value impact assessment, protections for human and animal health, and a waste management plan. The waste management plan would require facilities to prove they won’t pollute air and water with storage and spreading activities.

Next week, two of the townships will discuss the partnership’s progress and the proposed operations ordinances. Residents are encouraged to share their thoughts with local officials as they receive reports from the consortium’s study committee on the facts about CAFOs, and a proposed set of regulations. Eureka Township will also be setting a date and time for such a hearing next week.

Upcoming meetings:

Town of Laketown

January 11, 2022, 7 p.m.
Cushing Community Center
2510 241st Street
Cushing, WI 54006

Trade Lake Township

January 13, 2022, 6 p.m.
Trade Lake Town Hall
11811 Town Hall Rd
Frederic, WI 54837

Draft ordinance:


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2 responses to “Townships consider recommendations for large livestock operation ordinances”

  1. Peter Gove Avatar
    Peter Gove

    Make these operators budget for onsite secondary treatment of the animal waste like any other small city would given this volume of waste.

  2. Richard Tober Avatar
    Richard Tober

    Thanks for covering this most important topic.

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Townships consider recommendations for large livestock operation ordinances