Letter to Editor: Better CAFO regulations needed

Farm Forum

The recent issues concerning confined animal feeding regulations in Bon Homme County will not go away. Common sense regulations must be put in place for these type of operations that are bypassing current CAFO regulations on the local, county, state and federal level. Why? Because of what is happening here and all over the nation. Entities are purposely building under the CAFO laws to avoid any regulation.

Unfortunately, when that happens it may drag in good local operators that are also under the limit.

1. Currently in operation and under construction in Bon Homme County are 2,400-head swine finishing units that produce 4,800 head of finished hogs per year. That 4,800 head generate 600,000 to 900,000 pounds of liquid manure fertilizer per year. Using the lower figure of 600,000 pounds at 8 pounds per gallon equals 75,000 gallons per year. (Dr. Dick Nicolai, retired SDSU professor, recommends the 8 pounds per gallon figure.) That is a lot of waste from a relatively small CAFO by today’s standards.

No state permit for application, no zoning requirements, no groundwater discharge permit, no state or federal regulations, no safety and protection for the citizens of Bon Homme County. All one needs is a building permit to do a project such as this. Mike Soukup should be thanked for trying to get the county commission to discuss lowering CAFO number for zoning laws in Bon Homme. The proposal he brought forward from the zoning board to the county commission was only for discussion purposes as I understand it. It was not final action by the commission. I did not like it because the 500 figure appeared to low. It did have merit for discussion purposes, which was supported by the zoning board. However, the key was from 500 head to 999 head expansions would not require neighbors living within a half mile to OK it. It would require a conditional use permit from the county. This would have been a big plus for many farmers wishing to expand their livestock operations with their sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, etc. who wish to come home to farm and can not afford to buy land. Mike should be thanked and not condemned for thinking outside the box and trying to solve a real concern in Bon Homme County.

2. Odor and particulates. Dr. Dick Nicolai did give a good presentation on bio filters and their effectiveness in swine barns. His use of large flake wood chips outside the barns at the Southeast experiment farm near Beresford documentation of 80 to 95 percent reduction in odor, particulates and airborne disease transmission was presented. Reductions in PRRS, staph, strep, MRSA and other diseases by the use of these filters was explained. There are types of water filtration units that are having good success in turkey and chicken barns as well. The biofilters do not work as well in curtain type finishing barns. Producers need to utilize this effective tool to be good neighbors. Finishing barns should be constructed to be able to utilize biofilters and curtain type barn construction halted until better methods developed to control odor and drift are implemented.

3. Shelter belts. Shelter belts on all sides of a CAFO should be planted consisting primarily of eastern red cedars on higher ground and willows, dogwoods, and cottonwoods in low lying areas. The eastern red cedars do an excellent job of absorbing dust and odor from the CAFOs. The 1/3-mile comments by Dr. Nicolai for shelterbelt usage were taken out of context by those who do not want to protect their neighbors. Drift has been detected over three miles from CAFOs. Although the smell may be gone, the particulates, dust and other issues still exist.

4. Feed additives. Yeasts and other additives appear to have a positive effect on reducing odors from CAFOs. Soybean and corn oil added in the feed reduce the dust in and around the building. There appears to be less coughing better gain and more content pigs with the use of these products.

5. Three mile rule. At a Hutchinson County zoning meeting, a young man brought out the fact he could not build his CAFO within three miles of another entity’s pig operation. The reason given was disease prevention. Why is it OK to build these type of facilities right next to your neighbor with no rules of regulation if they are under the 2,500 swine head CAFO limit? This rule equals 1,000-animal units for beef cattle, 700 for dairy cattle, 2,500 swine and approximately 30,000 for broilers or laying hens for liquid manure. Dry manure systems are 125,000 birds for non-egg laying chickens, 82,000 for laying hens. Turkeys are 55,000 head. Geese are 30,000 head before CAFO state DENR permit requirements kick in.

Why is there an unofficial 3-mile rule between pig factories but no rules on how far they can be from neighbors’ homes if they are under the animal unit requirement? Does this mean pigs are more important than people? It appears so.

This issue is real. Diseases are mutating in the chicken and swine industry. The concern by the Center for Disease Control and many others is that these diseases may mutate into a human form to negatively affect human health. This is real. This is happening.

6. Setbacks. One mile setback from a rural residence is a must. The current half-mile setback is not addressing the issue adequately. Values of homes have dropped 10 percent to 60 percent around the nation when CAFOs are built next to them. A two-mile setback from rural towns is a must also for new CAFOs. Some municipalities in our great country require three-mile setbacks for CAFO’s. Concerns for the health and welfare of our city, county and state residents should trump the need for so called “cheap food,” which really is not that cheap.

7. Require bonding of buildings for cleanup in case of business failure and termination of building and cement pit. This is an important protection for our aquifers lakes streams and wells.

8. Require bonding for loss of property values. Property values have plummeted 10 to 60 percent for residences and property nationwide when CAFOs were built near them. This would also be a protection for the county and CAFO owner/operator from what are call nuisance lawsuits.

9. Require tougher county road agreements and road hauler agreements for when the feed trucks or semi trailers tear up the roads during wet or blizzard conditions.

10. The Kloucek Challenge. I ask that each of you take a cot or air mattress and sleep four hours in a hog, chicken, or turkey unit that is under the CAFO limit in the alleyway right next to the animal, not in the air conditioned office or other areas. Then take the cot or mattress outside and sleep within 100 feet of an active running exhaust fan. Then tell me they do not need some fair, common sense oversight.

11. MRSA and swine facilities — University of Iowa Research. Maryn McKenna’s Jan 22, 2014 article in “Wired” entitled “Almost Three Times the Risk of Carrying MRSA from Living near a Mega Farm” provides overwhelming evidence. Her article based on University of Iowa research of VA patients living near CAFOs should send a strong message. 1,036 patients living in rural Iowa were tested in the Iowa City VA facility in 2010 and 2011. “Overall among those patients, 6.8 percent were carrying MRSA, drug resistant staph in their nostrils. But the patients’ likelihood of carrying MRSA was 2.76 times higher if they lived within one mile of a farm housing 2,500 or more pigs.”

As one of my friends says, “I rest my case, end of story!”