Proposed hog operation near St. Croix tributary sees major setback

DNR rejects request to revise manure management and says company must reapply for permits.

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Swine barn (chayakorn lotongkum/iStockPhoto)

A planned industrial livestock facility in Wisconsin near the Trade River, a tributary to the St. Croix, has hit major road blocks. The Department of Natural Resources told Cumberland LLC this week that it needs to start over with its application to raise 250,000 hogs per year at a site south of Grantsburg.

Last Friday, October 14, Cumberland asked the DNR to revise its plans for handling the 9 million gallons of manure and other waste it will produce each year. The DNR on Monday summarily rejected the request, because Cumberland doesn’t yet have an approved Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) to revise. Such a document would detail where the company plans to spread manure on nearby fields to dispose of it and reuse it as fertilizer.

“The NMP Substantial Revision process is only applicable to NMPs that have been approved, public noticed, and finalized,” wrote Falon French, a CAFO specialist at the DNR. “Since none of these steps have occurred for Cumberland LLC, we’d expect any revisions to the plan be resubmitted under the 5-year NMP.”

In the same letter, Cumberland was informed it needs to go back to square one with its entire application. The company submitted an application for a wastewater discharge permit in April 2021, but the state’s review was subsequently put on hold because of missing wetland information.

“Since it has now been one and a half years since the application was originally submitted, Cumberland LLC must submit a new, updated WPDES permit application,” French wrote. “As part of this application, an updated 5-year NMP should reflect the changes detailed within this substantial revision request.”

Beginning in 2019, Cumberland LLC has been developing a proposal to operate a facility that would house up to 26,000 hogs at a time. The farrowing facility would primarily breed the swine and raise them to the point they’re ready to be moved to another facility for finishing before slaughter.

In its original Nutrient Management Plan, Cumberland said it would spread manure for three to four days, twice a month, in May, July, October and November. The company said it had about 1,800 acres of fields available to spread manure, including about 1,000 acres rented from other landowners. Some of the fields were to be located on either side of both the Trade and Wood Rivers, a short distance above their confluence with the St. Croix.

Data from previous submission of Cumberland LLC Nutrient Management Plan (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)

Local opposition has been fierce, as many community members are concerned about pollution of rivers, lakes, and groundwater. Such facilities are also known for creating strong odors that can be smelled up to six miles away. The aquifer around a large-scale dairy cattle facility near the Willow River watershed has also exhibited extremely high levels of nitrates in drinking water, which can cause a variety of health problems for people. Such operations also use extensive antibiotics for livestock, creating potential human health threats.

Cumberland LLC is operated by Jeff Sauer, of Thorp, Wis., about 130 miles southeast of Trade Lake. It also reportedly has owners and investors from Iowa, who are linked to that state’s extensive hog industry.

The Nutrient Management Plan is one challenge the company faces. Previously, it has been delayed by disagreement about impacts to wetlands. Construction of the three barns and associated facilities would destroy designated wetlands at the site. Cumberland has argued the wetlands were artificially created and thus exempt from protection.

Meanwhile, several local town governments have passed ordinances in the past year to regulate large-scale livestock facilities. The state of Wisconsin limits local authority over such operations, but town boards in the area targeted for hog facilities have partnered to enact policies allowed by the state to protect the community and environment.

Last week, the Trade Lake town board, where Cumberland’s facility would be located, extended a moratorium on new facilities until Dec. 31 while it complete work on its regulations. Learn more at KnowCAFOs.org.


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2 responses to “Proposed hog operation near St. Croix tributary sees major setback”

  1. Nancy Hammer Avatar
    Nancy Hammer

    I’m grateful for the meticulous work by Falon French, a CAFO specialist at the DNR.

  2. Richard Tober Avatar
    Richard Tober

    Thank St. Croix 360 for your coverage of this most important topic.

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Proposed hog operation near St. Croix tributary sees major setback