Bayfield County, Wisconsin’s crown jewel, will soon join the ranks of the 57 other counties in Wisconsin with a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) operating within its borders. Except, unlike the 57 other counties, Bayfield’s northern border is Lake Superior and 10 percent of the world’s fresh water.
Reicks View Farms from Iowa submitted an application on Dec. 19 requesting a permit for the 6.4 million gallons of manure produced annually by 100 boars, 7,500 sows, 4,125 (55 pound – market weight) pigs and 14,625 (0-55 pound) piglets.
Kewaunee County, located on the shores of Lake Michigan, has many of the same features as Bayfield County: marinas, tourism, lighthouses, Great Lakes, rolling hills, fishing boats, trout streams, harbor towns, beaches, sailing, watersheds and commercial fisheries. Kewaunee also now has one of the largest concentrations of industrial dairy farms in the state and provides a cautionary tale about what happens when a CAFO comes to town.
Kewaunee is home to 200 dairy farms and 15 dairy CAFOs – 80,000 cows producing an equivalent amount of waste equal to 1.6 million humans. And all that manure is causing a lot of problems. In a Capital Times article from Oct. 23, 2014, the DNR estimates that “the county’s cropland has a carrying capacity for 11.3 million pounds of nitrogen, while manure produced there accounts for about 12.4 million pounds — leaving a surplus of about 1.2 million pounds.”
According to WisconsinWatch.org, “As of June 2013, 31 percent of the wells [in Kewaunee County] had tested as unsafe due to nitrates or bacteria, with individual townships ranging from 14 to 51 percent.” Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey Boldt declared, in his decision in the water pollution permit challenge by residents of Kewaunee County, that there has been “a massive regulatory failure to protect groundwater.”
The Cornucopia Institute reported on Oct. 31, 2014, “Midwest Environmental Advocates joined Clean Wisconsin, Environmental Integrity Project, Midwest Environmental Defense Center, Kewaunee CARES and the Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin to jointly file a written petition for emergency action detailing the need for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to exercise its emergency powers under the Safe Drinking Water Act and other federal pollution cleanup laws.”
Make no mistake, the water in Kewaunee County’s wells, streams and watersheds, as well as Lake Michigan, are polluted due to the massive proliferation and expansion of the CAFO industry in Northeast Wisconsin in the last decade.
Bayfield County, on the shores of Lake Superior, relies on tourism for much of our economic stability and growth – in 2013, tourists spent $40.75 million in our region. The 2014 ice cave phenomenon brought more than 138,000 people and $13.8 million into our community in less than three months.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism publication, The Power of Wisconsin Tourism 2014 Key Messages for Wisconsin’s Tourism Industry, “Tourism continues to be one of Wisconsin’s most important economic resources and investing in tourism promotion and marketing at both the state and local level is one of the best things a state can do to attract visitors, enhance the state’s image and keep the economy growing.”
How are 24,000 pigs in the Fish Creek Watershed [Bayfield], less than 10 miles (as the crow flies or water flows) from Lake Superior going to support our tourism-based economy? They’re not; the end game is Kewaunee County and it’s not pretty.
Dale Reicks is leaving Iowa because of the PED (porcine epidemic diarrhea) virus, a corona virus with a nearly 100 percent mortality rate in suckling pigs. The National Hog Farmer states, “Huge numbers of virus particles are shed in feces. One thimbleful of feces could contain enough of the virus to infect all the pigs in the United States. The PED virus is being detected in samples collected from pig collection points, slaughter facilities, transportation vehicles and innumerable fomites illustrating the vast potential for transmission. It is expected that survivability and transmission of virus will be enhanced in cold weather. Farm biosecurity efficacy is likely to be tested aggressively in the coming months.”
And that’s why Reicks is seeking to open a factory farm in Bayfield County – his bottom line is threatened by an incurable disease that’s the result of poor animal husbandry practices in his home state of Iowa. He’s bringing his dirty business to a county with six nationally designated areas: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Iron River National Fish Hatchery, North Country National Scenic Trail, St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge.
Some 7.125 billion people are walking on this planet right now. The sum total of the populations of Ontario, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin is 34.65 million. In essence, less than .0049 percent of the world’s population are the direct stewards of 10 percent of the planet’s fresh water. How do we handle such a weighty responsibility?
A good place to start would be to tell Dale Reicks to keep his hogs out of Bayfield County. At some point, we all have to decide the resources we’ve so generously been given are not endless and deserve our utmost respect and gratitude. If I had one wish for my children and grandchildren, it would be that Lake Superior and its watershed continue to provide for the people who live on its shores. I would wish for a legacy of gratitude and stewardship for one of the great wonders of the world. I don’t want Bayfield to become the next Kewaunee County.