This weekend was an interesting one at the farm. It had it's good moments and it's bad moments. The drive up was fine. Stopped at Menards to get some more 2 x 4 's for putting up walls. Relaxed when we got to the farm. Went to bed early so we could be full of energy for the weekend. Eli came over to visit Saturday morning and told us some disturbing news. He had been to a meeting last week concerning the company that is trying to site a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) in our county. The firm is from Rockford IL. They own several parcels in Vernon county. They have said that they will probably have a California company handle the operations of the CAFO. They have already changed their mind on two sites because of public outcry. The first was a mile and a half from the town of Westby. The second, a mile from Viroqua. They also own other land which is on our road. About 2 miles as the crow flys. We (and all of the neighbors) are downwind. Do you know what the manure form 3200 head of dairy cows smells like? The water useage is just unbelievable too. One hundred fifty gallons of water per cow per day. Bye-bye area wells.
A farmer/neighbor up the road stopped by as we were packing to leave Sunday with a petition to stop the CAFO & another petition stating we would not let them spread their manure on our property. You see, they have to get rid of the manure. If enough area people won't take it, they'll have to pay to truck it somewhere else. And then there is the road. Our road gets little traffic. A lot of Amish buggies, milk trucks from the small dairies and very little truck & car traffic. An operation like this would produce a huge amount of truck traffic. It makes me cringe thinking of all those trucks on the same road as the Amish in their buggies & the children walking to school. That's one thing that might be in our favor. The Amish school is practically next door to the site.
The way the law is in Wisconsin, it is only possible to fight a CAFO from an environmental standpoint and there are several loopholes (of course). Even if all the people in the area sign a petition against it, they can still do it if they want. We have what is called "Karst" topography in our area. Karst topography is a landscape created by groundwater dissolving sedimentary rock such as limestone. This creates land forms such as shafts, tunnels, caves, and sinkholes. Groundwater seeps into and through these land forms. The result is a scenic landscape which is beautiful but fragile, and vulnerable to erosion and pollution. This should be enough to keep them out of our area but Wisconsin is a very pro-agriculture state. Which is fine but factory farms aren't agriculture. They are corporations who mistreat animals and the land with no regard for the health of their neighbors or the environment.
And speaking of health...here is a article from the Westby Times quoting Peter Holzhauer, who is an emergency room doctor at Elmbrook Memorial Hospital, Milwaukee, who used his medical expertise to research the health hazards of CAFOs in the 2008 fight against a CAFO pig farm.
"Two direct human health risks have been linked to CAFOs: airborne particulates (with attendant odors serving to add insult to injury) and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.“The air pollution is a health risk, which, depending on prevailing winds and distance to populations, basically dissipates with time and wind. And generally there is a siting rule that the CAFO has to be half a mile from any population or even a farmhouse,” he said, noting in particular the dangerously higher incidence of hydrogen sulfide and ammonia near CAFOs.The other danger, he adds, is both less immediately detectable and more deadly. “The so-called MRSA (Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) show a higher incidence near CAFOs,” he says, explaining that this and other e-coli bacteria have managed to build a resistance to human antibiotics through the overuse of animal antibiotics prevalent in CAFOs. “Part of the problem there is that about 70 percent of our antibiotics go into animals, and not for the purpose of preventing disease, necessarily, but for fattening them up for market. Therefore a CAFO is a prime situation for developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”He noted that the bacteria first show up among CAFO workers and eventually, through personal contact, can infect family and neighbors. It also shows up, Holzhauer said, in surface water runoff."
So, we are a little upset. The farmer/neighbor up the road is putting all his projects on hold until this is resolved. It leaves us in a similar situation. Do we keep working on our home and land in the hope that it won't happen or do we stop for now? We won't live in an area with such health concerns. But our land values would plummet and who would buy a farm downwind from a CAFO?
The land he owns up the road is only one of the sites. There are three other parcels of land he owns. We are in the middle of them.
I hope this resolves itself soon. There is a huge (stinky) cloud hanging over all of us now.