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South Dakota GOP Putting Big Beef over Clean Water

Rep. Mark Mickelson (R-13/Sioux Falls) thinks South Dakota needs more confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). He pushed legislation, HB 1201, that took effect yesterday making it easier for CAFOs to get approval from county commissions. Mickelson’s HB 1201 supports his GOP leadership’s agenda of promoting more big corporate farming. The Minnehaha County Commission just last week approved a 999-head CAFO  three miles from Hartford and maybe ten miles from the Big Sioux River.

Meanwhile, Sioux Falls is planning to spend over a million dollars to pay farmers to keep their livestock from pooping in the river while School of Mines researchers study just how much of the E. coli in the Big Sioux is bad for humans. In its latest round of water testing, Dakota Water Watch found E. coli levels exceeding safety standards in the water at four state recreation areas in the Big Sioux watershed: Palisades State Park near Garretson, Big Sioux Rec Area near Brandon, Newton Hills State Park near Canton, and Good Earth State Park near Canton.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Marty Jackley rushes to join other states in suing to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating water pollution in South Dakota. The SDGOP seems to think it can have its water and poop in it, too.


  1. Lynn 2015-07-02

    I don’t know what the big fuss is about. They can still go swimming, canoeing or kayaking. They will just need a biohazard suit that is well ventilated or with temperature control during these hot summer days. Get that overly burdensome government out of the way for Progress!

  2. 96Tears 2015-07-02

    Blame Mark Mickelson and Marty Jackley for helping to kill off babies and old people from E. coli infections. The Big Sioux (Slough) River is infamous for many years for carrying high nitrate levels in its watershed, which pollutes the water you drink from home wells and rural water systems. There were studies in the 80s and 90s showing high incidences of cancer that can be attributed to high levels of carcinogens found in the watershed. The legislature and the governors ignored all that because poop factories have higher standing than live human beings.

  3. Jeff Barth 2015-07-02

    Please note that CAFOs have manure storage facilities that prevent runoff. That means CAFOs help clean and clear the river water. The NRCS and others are working with farmers to end ancient practices that pollute.

    However “natural” it seems to canoe by cattle standing in the river, they are typical of the causes that put fecal material into the river.

    Nitrate is an issue but using bio-reactors and riparian barriers can significantly reduce it in tile water. High levels can indicate extra and wasted fertilizer has been applied.

    The City of Sioux Falls is doing a study of municipal runoff from a neighborhood into Skunk Creek. DNA testing will identify the animal origin of the fecal material found. These are expensive tests. Will it be dog? Will it be raccoon? Rabbit? Human from septic tanks?

  4. Paul Seamans 2015-07-02

    It is not just big beef but also big dairy, big pig, and big poultry. Gov. Daugaard and wannabe governor Mark Mickelson want to turn eastern South Dakota into one big CAFO. Lest western SD feels left out they are attempting to bring in situ uranium mining into the Black Hills and the Keystone XL pipeline into central SD. Economic development at all costs, we’ll maybe worry about clean drinking water later on.

  5. Paul Seamans 2015-07-02

    CAFO’s, of course, have manure storage facilities, as do cities. These lagoons often leak. When the manure is cleaned out of the lagoons and is spread on fields it is often washed into streams from rainfall. CAFO’s are as big a threat to water quality as some small farmers cattle standing in the stream to cool off. I do not buy the thinking that CAFO’s are of a minimal threat to our drinking water.

  6. Troy 2015-07-02

    1) Jeff is correct. The more beef, pigs and chickens grown in more heavily regulated CAFO’s, the less negative consequences of run-off or leeching into the soils which can get into water tables.

    2) The grain not consumed by ethanol plants or animals is trucked/trained out of SD and has lower economic impact on our smaller rural communities who depend on the value added revenue vs. just growing grain and exporting it.

    3) Everyone is concerned about things like rural vitality and good schools in these towns but seem to be deaf to the need for those local economies to be viable.

  7. bret clanton 2015-07-02

    And what is done with the refuse from the storage facility Jeff?….And what is done with the manure pile Jeff?…

  8. Lynn 2015-07-02

    Environmentally how have the CAFOs worked out for Minnesota and Iowa?

  9. mike from iowa 2015-07-02

    In iowa.hog waste is supposed to be injected under the soil,but when the ground freezes the stuff is blown on top to run off with snow melt into ditches and creeks and eventually into waterways and rivers. These cofos need to have their storage pumped at least once a year,usually right after soybean harvest. We have had early freeze ups. Berms can and do leak. So do pits. So do the enormous tanker trucks used to haul; liquid manure all around tearing up gravel roads and blacktops. Bigger is just begging for more headaches including pollution,fishkills and wingnut legislators bending over to prevent habitual violators from paying fines for environmental damages.

  10. Roger 2015-07-02

    its more than just the cafo site. industrial animal facilities demand feed, lots of it. the erosion potential for corn silage is at least 5 times that of small grains or even corn grain. each cow needs a little more than an acre of silage per year. so when you change from 100,000 (and more) acres of minimum erosion to max erosion, the big sioux will suffer.. and don’t get me started on how the state has us protected…. ain’t happening folks….

  11. MD 2015-07-02

    Augustana has been collecting data on Big Sioux River water quality, for quite awhile now as a part of their Introductory Bio courses. They have students sample water at various points on the river throughout the city of Sioux Falls. They should have decent data available if they wanted to assess how these operations affect water quality. When I did the project, one of the biggest changes in water quality measurements occurred downstream from John Morrell. While I don’t have specific data, their legal dumping was having a pretty significant impact on water quality.
    We need to keep that fine balance between decent regulation without discouraging people from staying in the market. It seems pretty obvious that producers are unable to self regulate.

  12. Donald Pay 2015-07-02

    Troy’s post includes the term “heavily regulated.” Uh, no. These are industrial sized facilities putting out tremendous amounts of pollution, and there is very little regulation, and not much oversight. We really need to treat CAFOs as cities, because they are pumping out that much waste. All that waste needs to be treated.

  13. larry kurtz 2015-07-02

    Antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, methane all end up in the environment regardless of manure management.

  14. grudznick 2015-07-02

    Mike, who is from Iowa, just explained something I’ve always wondered about Iowa. Thank you, Mike.

  15. Kathy Tyler 2015-07-02

    Troy, we need to have a very serious sitdown. A 6400 sow unit puts out 1,000,000 gallons of manure every year, at the minimum. All of that is spread on fields with no concern whether the ground is frozen, that there is tiling that takes the ‘fertilizer’ right into the streams, or that the ground is saturated already. The huge dairies put out much more than that.
    These facilities also lead to corn on corn on corn in the fields. That is a lose-lose situation. That soil is going to go ‘down the river’ also.
    As for economic development, if you look at the employees of these facilities, you won’t see a lot of locals. And the owners usually are out-of-state residents.
    There’s an event in Brookings on July 25th that everyone should attend.
    There are two sides to every story, and until one has experienced a CAFO in his or her front yard…

  16. Kathy Tyler 2015-07-02

    Oops, and local economies thrive because of families. Large animal facilities take the ‘family’ out of farming.

  17. John 2015-07-02

    Our friends Jeff and Troy ought take a little trip to Andy Griffith land where North Carolina has CAFOs and pig crap coming out of its ears. Oh, theoretically concentrated solutions make sense, but in actual practices not-so-much, because few things cave faster than a county commission, county or state regulators.

  18. Donald Pay 2015-07-02

    Paul Seamans says, “Gov. Daugaard and wannabe governor Mark Mickelson want to turn eastern South Dakota into one big CAFO. Lest western SD feels left out they are attempting to bring in situ uranium mining into the Black Hills and the Keystone XL pipeline into central SD. Economic development at all costs, we’ll maybe worry about clean drinking water later on.”

    Let’s don’t leave out their plans to turn South Dakota into nuclear waste dump. The Request for Proposal for Deep Borehole Disposal in eastern South Dakota is likely to be submitted sometime after July 8.

  19. Paul Seamans 2015-07-02

    Thanks for the link, Donald Pay. Western South Dakota also has a study going on that has been funded by the legislature and is being done by the School of Mines to determine if the Pierre Shale would be a good place to store radioactive waste. What is wrong with these people?

  20. leslie 2015-07-02

    well, it’s only a 17″ diameter exploration hole(s) 16,400 feet deep into basement crystalline rock (i.e our beloved black hills or nearby) for deposit of canisters to hold Sandia Labs (Albuquerque NM-our new school of mines president’s state, i believe) designed DEEP BOREHOLE DEPOSITS OF HIGH-LEVEL-RADIOACTIVE WASTE. For cross-cutting and induced siesmicity (explosives?) purposes, the bottom 6000 feet would be the storage area, capped with bentonite from Colony Wyo and concrete from our former state Cement Plant, i am guessing. All testing is managed by DOE via LOCKHEED-MARTIN (Congress woman heather wilson’s compadre in the recent questionable, undocumented research funded work-funds had to be returned if i remember)wapo 6.11.13.

    This looks to be the fingerprints of Regents, i would guess. Who is going to be the next Joop in SD?

  21. Paul Seamans 2015-07-03

    Thanks for the link to a great story on the effects of CAFO’s in Minnesota. Minnesota’s neutering of their state environmental agency has parallels to what is happening in South Dakota. The DENR’s head, Steve Pirner, has bragged about how many CAFO’s and oil wells his agency has permitted and doing it with 80 fewer employees. Our DENR is silently being rendered impotent by South Dakota’s GOP leadership.

  22. mike from iowa 2015-07-03

    Good article,Kurtz. Sounds just like iowa where Farm Burro gets what Farm Burro wants from the lege.And what Farm Burro wants is bigger and even bigger quicker.

  23. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-03

    Donald! Boreholes! I still need to get on that story. Maybe we could pipe cow poop to the bottom of a big hole in the ground….

  24. Donald Pay 2015-07-04

    If they are going ahead with the borehole project, they have likely already selected a site in eastern South Dakota, which they have already disclosed or will soon disclose to the Department of Energy. They, of course, have no intention of disclosing it to the people of South Dakota, until, maybe, after all the DOE money is in hand and then they will have a hard time backing away from it.

    Still, there is a long way to go, and one thing that might help DOE in being dissuaded from this plan is to launch an an online petition that is submitted to DOE in opposition to this site being used for the purposes of testing for and developing a project to dispose of high-level radioactive waste. At this point DOE is pretending the project will only go to states and local communities who “consent.” This is the Obama DOE’s form of rape: saying to kissing (borehole testing) means you’ve consented to intercourse (nuclear waste). How can people “consent” if DOE refuses to release the information they’ve gotten from Daugaard and South Dakota entities?

  25. mike from iowa 2015-07-05

    Send all that waste to Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Afterall,what are the chances of an earthquake in an active seismic zone like Calif/Nevada?

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