My county commission doesn’t post an agenda packet so we could review Tobin’s proposal beforehand. But remember: the Planning Commission didn’t act arbitrarily or unilaterally. It denied Wolff’s variance request because not all of Wolff’s neighbors approved of the expansion.
“There were four neighbors (and one commercial business) within the half-mile, and they only got two of the five to sign affidavits to go forward with it,” said Rachel Kippley, Brown County commission chairwoman.
…Kippley said it was a difficult decision for the planning commission.
Now don’t get the idea that Brown County is anti-CAFO. Our commission recently approved the Hutterville Colony’s application to expand its hog operation, raising the maximum hog count from 2,400 to nearly 10,000. But Jeff Wolff isn’t thinking about that. He’s lambasting Brown County for opposing livestock operations:
Brown County SD proved tonight that the people who sit on County Planning and Zoning board are the reason that livestock operations looking to grow in SD look elsewhere to build. Then they wonder why they have no tax base to maintain infrastructure. Apparently they are all vegetarians or maybe they think their pork chops, bacon and steaks come from the grocery store. Total idiots! [Jeff Wolff, Facebook post, 2017.09.19, 23:45 CDT]
With corn at $2.66 a bushel today and the attitude that many in Brown County have against livestock operations i do not feel sorry for them a damm bit! I hope they feel the hurt for a long time and that it affects those up and down main street as well. Brown county is the leading corn and soybean producing county in the state, the county is home to two ethanol plants and one close by in a neighboring county, one soybean processor and a new soybean crush plant under construction that will be one of the largest soy plants in the AGP system, a Beef Processor who is trying to get to full capacity. And yet with all of these resources the county ranks 33rd in the state for Cattle and Calves and 27th in state for hogs. There is something drastically wrong with this picture. Visit any small town in the county and the almost resemble a gosht town. Why because one of the main drivers of the economic engine in rural america is lacking here LIVESTOCK! If you want to see what livestock production does in terms of vibrant business activity in small rural towns travel to most any community in northwest Iowa and you will find main street alive and well and full of cars and pickups any day of the week. Livestock facilities contribute greatly to the tax base that is so badly needed to support our schools and maintain our infrastructure! WAKE UP BROWN COUNTY! You need to be working hard to bring operations to the county not driving them away!! [Jeff Wolff, Facebook post, 2017.09.20, ~noon CDT]
An eager reader sends an update from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources listing seven pending Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) applications that are open for public comment:
Lincoln County voters consider wind turbines almost as offensive as 7200 head of dairy cattle. While DPD 2 must be 0.675 mile back from residential buildings, Lincoln County voters just deemed that wind turbines must be 0.5 mile away from any habitable structures.
Two weeks ago, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources refused to hear testimony from physician Don Kelley on the role of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in increasing the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Dr. Kelley has provided Dakota Free Press with what he would have told DENR had they deemed this public health threat relevant to their revision of the General Water Pollution Control Permit. Dr. Kelley, who chairs Dakota Rural Action, would have supported his comments with documents prefiled by DRA in teh permit hearing. I have added my own hyperlinks to relevant articles supporting Dr. Kelley’s statements.
CAFO TESTIMONY (DENR 9/28/16)
Good morning, Mr. Secretary and Dept. members. My name is Don Kelley from the Deadwood, SD area, and I’d like to speak to you about an issue of great significance for all of us, which is the rapidly worsening antibiotic resistance of bacteria in our environment. There is good evidence from around the world (including the CDC here in the States) that confined animal feeding operations are contributing to this problem.
What I intend to show is:
CAFO’s pose a risk to human health through environmental dissemination of antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant organisms
Surface- and ground-water contamination is one of the documented routes of this dissemination from CAFO’s
Further development of the animal-feeding industry in South Dakota should not be allowed until this risk is eliminated
To continue permitting these current CAFO practices in South Dakota is contrary to the judgment of such authoritative groups as the CDC, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and the World Health Organization
The problem is serious enough that some infectious disease experts have warned that we are nearing the end of the antibiotic era, when many infections will have become untreatable, and we will have to resort to quarantine and disinfectants alone. Right now it’s still rare to find an organism that’s completely untreatable, but some are being reported in the US. Much more commonly, there remain a few last-resort antibiotics that do work against partially-resistant organisms, but they are typically much more toxic and dangerous than the drugs which have become ineffective. For a variety of reasons, effective new classes of antibiotics are no longer emerging from the pharmaceutical industry.
Although the overuse of antibiotics in human medicine shares the blame for the development of antibiotic resistance, the CDC is clear in assigning part of the blame to industrial food-animal production. In the US, nearly 80% of the 32.6 million pounds of antibiotics sold annually are used in industrial livestock farming. [Sources indicate 32.6 million pounds may be the actual amount of anitbiotics used for livestock production. —CAH] In the US, we use more antibiotics per pound of meat produced than any other nation. The volume of antibiotic use in industrial ag increased 20% between 2009 and 2013. More than 60% of these antibiotics in agriculture are considered important for use in humans. Even among those drugs that aren’t used in humans, we’ve seen the development of antibiotic resistance which confers cross-resistance to some human antibiotics.
So, how does a bacterium become resistant to antibiotics? It’s initially by a selection process: all the susceptible bugs are killed, but a few mutants sometimes survive because they’ve developed a means of resisting the drug. With repeated exposure to the drug (especially at low doses), the resistant strain becomes the dominant form. Once this happens, bacteria have tricks by which they can actually transfer drug-resistance genes from one to another, and even from one bacterial species to another.
This process can happen within the body of an animal or human, but can also occur within a manure lagoon. Some of the antibiotic dose makes it through the animal’s system and ends up in manure along with the bacteria, so this selection and gene-transfer process can continue in the pooled manure, increasing the number of resistant organisms.
These problems have been recognized for years, but the industrial ag proponents have been generally successful in preventing any remedies from being enacted. They have seen that they can reduce problems resulting from dense crowding of animals who are exposed to one another’s manure, and who are being fed a diet for which their digestive systems weren’t designed, by putting antibiotics in their feed or water. Animals were also found to put on more weight when given routine antibiotics.
Recognizing how severe the antibiotic resistance problem has become, the FDA managed to enact some rules that took effect in 2015 which were intended to reduce this risk by designating certain antibiotics in feed which can only be administered under the supervision of a veterinarian. These rules would theoretically stop the routine use of antibiotics for growth promotion, but continued to allow their use for disease prevention among the animals. Since the crowding of stock presents a constant threat of disease spread, it’s easy to imagine that some CAFO operators could persuade some veterinarians that they need that extra insurance to prevent disease outbreaks, even when nobody is clearly sick. When you combine this with the nationwide shortage of veterinarians who have ample experience with food animal medicine, and vets who may be asked to authorize antibiotic feed without having examined an animal, you can see that this may not be very effective in curtailing antibiotic use. As we’ve mentioned, the trend in animal antibiotic sales is upward.
Our primary concern here today is how all this affects our water supply. There is now very good evidence that antibiotic resistance does get spread in the environment via the water route. Nowadays you can actually measure the concentration of bacterial antibiotic resistance genes in water, and people have done just that in the South Platte River, for example. Here, researchers measured the concentration of these genes upstream and downstream from CAFO’s, and did the same measurements upstream and downstream from municipal sewage-treatment plants along the river. They found a much greater increase in these resistance genes downstream from CAFO’s, as contrasted with the increase associated with municipal waste-water treatment plants.
Considering that humans and livestock share many of the same disease-causing microbes in our digestive tracts, and considering that the volume of waste produced in a large CAFO may be larger than that produced by many cities, a person could wonder why we wouldn’t insist that CAFO manure be dealt with as carefully as municipal sewage, particularly in light of the antibiotic resistance problem.
In conclusion, I think we can see that effective legislation to remove this threat to our water supply and to our future ability to rely on antibiotics has been thwarted so far, in spite of the fact that more than 400 health-related groups have endorsed the PAMTA legislation. In view of increasing public awareness of this issue, we could expect that present CAFO models for food production necessitating antibiotic use won’t be tolerated much longer. Meanwhile, it would be prudent of South Dakota to insist that anyone proposing CAFO development be required to show how they can avoid contributing to this problem.
Opponents and proponents of stricter feedlot regulations in Bon Homme County are forming a volunteer group to see if they can help the county commission strike the right balance between ag-industrial interests and health and environmental concerns.
Meanwhile, Rep. G. Mark Mickelson (R-13/Sioux Falls), who has spent the last two Legislative Sessions dismantling feedlot regulations, says we’re still putting too many rules in the way of farmers who want to build concentrated animal feeding operations. Rep. Mickelson recites for WNAX his conviction that CAFOs are the only way to keep young people in farming in South Dakota and that we must thus review these environmentally risky operations as expeditiously as we can.
Rep. Mickelson continues to ignore the fact that CAFOs are not the only route to rural economic development. One could argue that favoring CAFOs actually makes it harder for other development to take place. Big feedlots expropriate land use from neighbors: concentrate 1,000 or 5,000 hogs in one feedlot, and while the feedlot owner increases his profits, the surrounding land becomes less desirable for housing development, other commercial development, and organic farming activities. Use the same land to promote small-scale agricultural production for local markets, and several entrepreneurs have a chance to make a better living on the land without infringing on their neighbors’ land use to the same extent that big CAFOs do.
Expand your field of vision, Rep. Mickelson. Existing CAFO regulations aren’t stopping farmers from building CAFOs, as a quick olfactory tour of East River will make clear. Expanding CAFOs may crowd out more of the young producers you say you want to keep in South Dakota.
Backers of the planned Rolling Green Family Farms swine operation in rural Cass County cited North Dakota’s “favorable permitting process controlled at the state level” in pitching their project last year at a state livestock summit.
Records obtained through open records requests show that officials from the state Department of Agriculture worked behind the scenes to help Rolling Green Family Farms secure an environmental permit for the 9,000-hog farm for almost a year before the public was notified of the proposal.
See the trick? Weaken local control, move more permitting from the county seat to the state capital, and the CAFO developers alert fewer local people as to what’s coming, meaning less time for local opponents to organize. Clever.
Also clever: Pipestone Holdings would name its Buffalo facility “Rolling Green Family Farm,” just as they call their Mount Vernon facility “Jackrabbit Family Farm,” since no one will begrudge a nice little “family farm” from producing the smell of money.
One of the skeptics is Randy Coon, an agribusiness researcher at North Dakota State University who has spoken as a private citizen against the project, which would be located about 2 miles from his family’s farm.
Coon, noting that there are three unit-train loading facilities nearby, said many of the inputs for the hog farm likely would come from outside the region. He said local purchases of corn wouldn’t boost the economy, arguing they wouldn’t bring new money into the community.
He also said profits would go to absentee owners. On the other hand, “The additional truck traffic on township roads will require upgrades and maintenance at a time when their budgets are already stressed,” Coons wrote in comments to the state Department of Health, which will decide whether to grant a permit for the hog farm. “This facility would most likely result in tax increases for local residents” [Patrick Springer, “The Smell of Whose Money? Study Questions Impact of Factory Farms,” Grand Forks Herald, 2016.03.19].
First, where industrialized farming expands we can expect distinct effects on communities’ socioeconomic, social fabric, and environmental well-being. Communi- ties that receive industrialized farming are likely to increase population relative to other communities (that is, if local family farmers are not displaced). They are also likely to experience greater income inequality; govern- ment services for the poor and other disadvantaged groups are likely to be needed. These communities will encounter stresses in the social fabric, particularly increased community conflict. In the case of large live- stock confinement operations, communities will be at risk for environmental and health problems, entailing the need for government intervention. Finally, communities that lose moderate-size family farms, in part because of transaction cost advantages (e.g., volume buying-selling) and public incentives given to industrialized farms, will lose a base of middle-class producers and experience population decline and rifts in social fabric. These communities are likely to have declines in other local businesses and the property tax base and may require state aid for social and public services [Linda Lobao and Curtis W. Stofferahn, “The Community Effects of Industrialized Farming: Social Science Research and Challenges to Corporate Farming Laws,” Agriculture and Human Values, accepted 2007.07.19].
A team from the University of Iowa, Iowa City Veterans Affairs, and Kent State University have done just that. In next month’s Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, they survey 1,036 VA patients who lived in rural Iowa and were admitted to the Iowa City 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.
Buffalo, ND, residents are right to doubt whether they’ll be rolling in the green with the hog factory Pipestone Holdings wants to bring to town. They may be more likely to be rolling in a hospital bed.
Rep. Dennis Feickert (D-1/Aberdeen) and Senator Jason Frerichs (D-1/Wilmot) spoke yesterday at a packed Brown County Democratic Forum. Both men discussed the 2016 Legislative Session.
School Funding: Rep. Feickert defended his vote against House Bill 1182, the half-penny sales tax to fund teacher pay raises, as “the right thing to do.” He likened this year’s sales tax increase to last year’s tax increase to fund road repairs and said both measures exemplify the Republicans’ habit of creating crises before taking action. (Rep. Feickert did vote for last year’s road bill.)
Senator Frerichs vote for HB 1182, but the farm machinery tax remains a burr under his tractor seat. He says the hit ag producers take paying an extra $500 per $100K of machinery on top of the general sales tax they pay with everyone else outweighs the thirty cents an acre they may get in property tax relief. Senator Frerichs notes that the majority of the property tax relief goes to commercial property owners who were left out of the Janklow property tax relief of the 1990s. The property tax relief will be divvied out proportionate to the general education levy on each sector, and commercial property has a mill levy five and half times higher than the ag levy and over twice as high as the residential levy.
Senator Frerichs noted that he did not sign onto the Democratic funding alternative, SB 151, because he generally opposes more sales tax. He said he has gone on record many times in favor of a corporate income tax, most recently in this year’s SJR 2, to get Walmart and other corporations to take some of our tax burden off working folks.
CAFOs: Frerichs and Feickert both expressed dismay over Rep. Mark Mickelson’s (R-13/Sioux Falls) narrow-minded focus on promoting concentrated animal feeding operations as the only option for promoting ag production in South Dakota. Frerichs said he’s not opposed to development if it’s done right. CAFO developers have to be neighbors. Frerichs says the CAFOs that see their permits rejected by local government usually lose because they don’t work with their neighbors but try to drop their big plans on locals without notice or cooperation. Frerichs said Mickelson’s HB 1140 this session is worse than the pro-CAFO deregulation he brought last year. Feickert agreed, saying Mickelson is trying to remove local control from the CAFO permitting process, an odd position for a Republican to take.
Medicaid Expansion: Frerichs joined Senator Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton) in voting against the FY2017 budget Friday. He said that the Legislature should have authorized the $373 million in federal spending necessary for Medicaid expansion. Even if the policy isn’t fully hammered out, there was no reason the Legislature had to wait to say, “Spend Uncle Sam’s money if we get it!” Frerichs said removing that funding item is pure politics: Governor Dennis Daugaard just wants to protect certain Republican legislators from primary challengers eager to scream “Obamacare!” one last time.
Highway 12: Outside of the Legislature, Feickert said he attended a Department of Transportation meeting last Thursday, at which Transportation officials recognized the stretch of Highway 12 from Aberdeen to Ipswich as a high-risk zone. Feickert said “99%” of the accidents there are due to driver error. He reported that Rep. Michele Harrison (R-23/Mobridge) is asking DOT to extend the divided four-laner west from Aberdeen, but Feickert says the state won’t pursue that costly option. Instead, he said we may see DOT bid out center rumble strips, which are far more cost-effective than laying new concrete.
What’s Next? Feickert is termed out of the House and does not plan to run for Senate. He says he’s happy to get back to haying and calving north of Aberdeen. Frerichs just got married last summer, but he has filed to run for another term in the Senate. Prodded by an audience member who indicated a desire to see Frerichs run for higher office, Frerichs said the Dems have an “awesome bench” with members like Senators Billie Sutton (D-21/Burke) and Troy Heinert (D-26/Mission). He said he’d love to see Stephanie Herseth Sandlin run for Governor, but he noted he gets along great with Sioux Falls mayor Mike Huether, too. Frerichs said he “will run for something,” but he said his biggest focus after family is agriculture.
Rural residents south of Mount Vernon continue to find their quality of life degraded by the stench of Jackrabbit Family Farms’ sow operation, which processes 150,000 new pigs a year. 150,000 pigs make a lot of poop, and that poop smells.
Pipestone Systems, the Big Agriculturalists who run that pork plant, want you to believe that stating those facts constitutes harassment:
Dr. Barry Kerkaert, Pipestone’s Vice President and veterinarian, is frustrated with what he described as continued verbal attacks on Jackrabbit Farms.
“We just exercised our rights, and we’re tired of being harassed,” Kerkaert said [Evan Hendershot, “Hog Facility Tries to Tame Tension,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2015.10.30].
Kathy Tyler tells me that the operators of the new swine CAFO in Grant County give her the same guff, telling her she’s “harassing” them.
Hendershot’s report mentions that Jackrabbit swine growers claim their manure pipes have been vandalized, and yes, if true, such violent action would constitute prosecutable harassment.
But I’m not comfortable with CAFOs bringing their new and massive stench to our rural landscape and throwing the legally charged word “harassment” at people who say their business is bad for South Dakota.
It’s one thing to use your property to make a living. It’s another to demand that your neighbors give up the full enjoyment of their property for the sake of your business. I don’t consider it harassment when someone makes statements objecting to my daily business activities (see the comment section for regular examples). I would consider it harassment if someone arranged for unappetizing odors to permeate my home on a weekly basis and prevent me from inviting company over.
In both Davison County and Grant County, numerous residents occupied their rural land before the swine operations moved in. Those rural residents could argue that, since they were there first, the peace and previously fresh air came with the territory of living in their rural community. On what moral grounds do we say that one person (and, since Pipestone Systems is a corporation, it’s a person, and just one person, right?) gets to change the terms of living in a community for several other people?
I like bacon as much as the next guy. I understand there’s money to be made in making bacon, and bacon isn’t made without poop. But if our cravings drive an industrialization of rural neighborhoods that makes rural neighbors lose their appetites and their home sales values, shouldn’t we at least allow those bearers of the hog industry’s externalities to complain about their loss and remind us of they price they pay for our cheap BLTs?
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement currently being negotiated among the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Seventy-three percent of all exports from South Dakota end up in TPP countries. Expanded access to these markets means expanded opportunities for South Dakota producers [Agriculture Secretary Lucas Lentsch, “Trade Creates New Opportunities for Ag,” AgWeek, 2015.03.09].
Lucas Lentsch, South Dakota’s secretary of agriculture, said the agreement is tremendously important to Main Streets and ag producers across the state.
The Asia-Pacific region represents a huge market for ag products, he said. Countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership currently account for as much as 42 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports, totaling $63 billion, according to USDA.
“We have added many value-added systems in our state that can benefit from the increased opportunities for trade,” Lentsch said. “Producers deserve the best prices possible, and this can help improve prices.”
Access to the markets will offer the opportunity to sell products grown and raised in the state, such as wheat, pork and beef, he said.
“By having this opportunity to improve the bottom line, benefits will come to those providing services to South Dakota farmers, such as suppliers of inputs and services,” Lentsch said [Connie Groop, “Lentsch: State Would Benefit from Trade Deal,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.10.09].
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources may have excluded the grassroots from the process of drafting a new General Water Pollution Control Permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, but DENR has now published that draft for our review in anticipation of their Thursday meeting on the subject.
Since I’m sure we all want to read about manure handling all day, here are the two permits:
So far, I notice two proposed changes that appear to lean toward greater environmental protection. The draft permit removes language about “chronic or catastrophic events.” The existing permit reads, “The only time this permit allows a discharge from an open lot is if a chronic or catastrophic event causes an overflow from the manure containment structure.” That sentence does not appear in the proposed revision. Maybe an exception is worked into other language, but it appears that the new permit would require CAFO operators to build their manure storage systems to withstand the worst that Mother Nature (or ISIS bombers?) can dish out.
The proposed draft does extend the time limit for temporary manure stockpiles from 90 to 120 days. It adds compacted soil berms as an allowable alternative to covering such stockpiles. However, that provision also adds requirements for siting such stockpiles: under the draft, such stockpiles would have to be outside the 100-year flood plain, outside setback areas, and on nutrient management plan field not over a shallow aquifer.” And where the current draft simply says producers “should consider moving temporary stockpiles,” the proposed draft says “The same stockpiling site cannot be used from year to year.”
There’s much more to read in the draft—readers, I welcome your review. Are these two changes exceptions to the rules Big Ag has helped DENR draft? Or is DENR really tightening the rules CAFOs must follow to keep their poop in a group?