Source: Socially Responsible Agricultural Project
CAFOs. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. Sometimes people say Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Here in northeastern Wisconsin, we have 16 CAFOs in Kewaunee County, second only to our neighboring Brown County which has 20. Most of these operations have 5,000-10,000 animals living in the closed quarters of the confinement model. In all, Wisconsin has 260 CAFO operations statewide, the bulk of them being industrial dairy operations.
Looking at the topography where we live, right below the “thumb” of Wisconsin, it’s hard to imagine the lack of forethought or planning that went into the pro cess of these me ga-operations and their expansions, considering that at one time we were a community of thriving class 1 trout streams, and have the good fortune to live in an area along the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline, dotting our community with beaches and breathtaking lake views– the literal gateway to the famous Door County, Wisconsin.
For a long time our community has been tolerant of watching the things we hold dear be degraded. Our soils, water and air have been greatly compromised due to these industrial operations and their polluting wastes, measuring in the millions and millions of gallons.
Saturated with manure, 85% percent of our farmland is currently managed in what our Department of Natural Resources calls “Nutrient Management Plans,” designed for the land spreading of the voluminous amount of wastes generated by these bloated operations. Already under a siege of waste where we live, these mega-farms now seek to spray irrigate manure into the air we breathe here, yet another form of disposal for an industry bulging at the seams with waste. The practice of aerosolizing waste into particulate droplets, which may be easily ingested and inhaled, harming human health, seems beyond negligent in an age where the growing reality of the threats of superbugs, antibiotic resistant diseases, and the airborne paths taken for transmission are known.
Thirty-three new CAFO permits are currently held at the DNR for our state. A proposed hog CAFO is looking to set up its operation in beautiful Bayfield Wisconsin, hoping to leave behind its former state of Iowa, and the PED pig virus that has devastated the industry there. When I think of Bayfield, Wisconsin I do not think of industrialized animal operations but pristine beauty that must be valued and protected as the state treasure that it is, and not destroyed by a 24,000+ hog operation.
The continued myth that we are feeding the world must be dispelled. We are not feeding the world. Most of the world is fed through subsistence farming, by women, on small acreages, where they live. The continued push for a “global economy” while our local economies continue to be impoverished by the factory farm model must stop. We cannot afford the costs of this unsustainable model that has compromised our land, air, and water where we live; left us with mass contamination, plunging property values, and the health threats that come from an inundation of untreated waste spread that has surpassed the carrying capacity of the land where we live.
Recently while watching a PBS documentary on our National Parks, it was remarked that the visionaries who saw that these beautiful natural areas were protected, did so to “protect us from ourselves” in a booming age of industrial growth and technology.
We must recognize our need to protect beautiful Wisconsin, and her beautiful natural resources for today, tomorrow and future generations.
Nancy L. Utesch farms in the town of Pierce in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin.