Organic Dairy Allowed to Continue Operations Near Gill Until Hearing in August

October 25th, 2007

The Greeley Tribune
Andrew Villegas

Aurora Organic Dairy near Gill will be allowed to continue operations despite a substantial fly problem bothering neighbors.

The Board of Weld County Commissioners decided on a split vote Wednesday to continue a hearing until August 2008 that could revoke the dairy’s special permit to operate the dairy with 4,500 cows.

Of central concern to dairy neighbors is a substantial fly problem that they say has inundated their properties and homes. Commissioners are giving the dairy until August to absolve the pest situation.

“I would like this dairy to disappear,” said Wendy Rogers, who owns a farm next to the dairy. “The dairy is too big to manage naturally.”

Rogers said the smell of natural insecticides that Aurora has been using on homes and property to kill the flies near the dairy has even made her sick.

“I’m disappointed in the county commissioners,” Rogers said after the four-hour hearing. “I thought they were there for us.”

Aurora officials admitted the problem and apologized to neighbors, but appealed to the commissioners to give them a second chance to rectify the pest situation. The farm is run by Scott and Brad Cockroft, and is called the High Plains Dairy.

“We’ve put systems in place so it will not happen again,” said Lee Sachnoff, lawyer for Aurora, which has its headquarters in Boulder. “We’re serious about this problem.”

Aurora officials said an inexperienced employee spread manure over the wrong field because the dairy’s new compost heap wasn’t working properly.

Some commissioners were in favor of revoking the permit from Aurora and others were in favor of reducing the number of cattle Aurora could have at the farm.

“I’m still in favor of immediate revocation,” said Commissioner Bill Jerke. “It’s pretty clear that they’ve burned some bridges with neighbors — they’re burning some bridges in this room today.”

Commissioner Bob Masden said the commissioners have never had to consider revoking a dairy permit like this before and called for a reduction of cows at the dairy.

“I know it doesn’t fit your financial model,” Masden said. “You guys created the situation; you guys get it fixed.”

Even if the commissioners revoke the permit, Aurora could still have more than 3,000 head of cattle on the land, though Aurora officials said it would cost the company millions of dollars.

Marc Peperzak, CEO of Aurora, said reducing the number of cattle at the dairy would be “impossible.”

“When I say millions, I’m not exaggerating,” Peperzak said. “It’s grossly unfair. It’s not right.”

Peperzak said the company has hired a “world-class” entomologist from Kansas to help mitigate the fly problem and added that Aurora is trying to help neighbors get rid of flies with spraying.

Laurie Exby, environmental specialist with the Weld Department of Health, said Aurora has to prove that they can remedy the problem.

“Their actions will speak louder than their words if they can do it,” she said.

What’s Next?

The Board of Weld County Commissioners will consider revoking Aurora’s organic dairy farm permit for a facility near Gill at 10 a.m. Aug. 13 in the Weld Centennial Center, 915 10th St.

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