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Bayfield County passes one year moratorium on large-scale farms
Bayfield County has passed a one year moratorium on large-scale farms as an Iowa outfit is looking to build a hog farm there with around 24,000 animals. Danielle Kaeding reports.
Officers turned people away as a crowd of around 200 people lined the walls of the Bayfield County board room last evening.They spoke for and against the moratorium stemming from Iowa-based Reicks View Farms’ plans to build a large-scale hog farm eight miles from Lake Superior. Opponents are concerned how existing farmers may be affected.
People who support this moratorium want more time to study the risks of large farms, including things like manure running into the lake. Jim Zorn lives a half-mile from where Reicks would build.
“We need a surveillance system. We need baseline data. We need to know where that water will go. We need to have our wells tested. We need to have our protocols set up not just for sulfates but for hormones and pharmaceuticals.”
Zorn says the issue isn’t whether people are for or against farming. But, several farmers said they were frustrated over comments from people who have no first-hand experience with farms and how they’re regulated. Jessica Pearce raises beef and hogs with her family.
“I am most concerned about the impact a moratorium will have on other farms such as myself even if I want to build a new barn to house my cattle.”
Mason farmer Clay Burditt says a moratorium sends a message to farmers that the county doesn’t want them to succeed.
“A farm has to grow and adapt to changing trends and new technologies. That is how we better ourselves and our animals.”
The board cut off public comment after an hour. That drew protest from Red Cliff Tribal Member Gretchen Morris. As officers escorted her from the meeting, Morris says a large-scale farm would threaten their rights to hunt, fish and gather.
“You’re violating our treaty rights. Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa 1854 treaty. We will not allow it.”
Board members asked their legal counsel about the possibility that Reicks could sue over the moratorium and whether it already has a legal right to build. Bayfield County Corporation Counsel Linda Coleman says that remains unclear.
“There’s no way anybody could get up here today and tell you they are or are not vested absolutely 100 percent.”
Bayfield attorney Glenn Stoddard spoke on behalf of around 3,000 people who signed a petition supporting a moratorium. Stoddard says it will end up in court either way.
“I’m telling you right now when you can fill a room like this and you’ve got tribes and people from a city like Ashland and other people who are concerned about it, you bet there’s going to be litigation.”
Board members also asked Reicks View Farms representatives about how they run and the risks involved. Reicks View Farms Swine Operations Director Gene Noem says they would be proud to operate in Bayfield County.
“We plan to continue to do livestock farming in the same safe, professional manner that we do now and that we do in the state of Iowa.”
The moratorium passed by the board affects new farms of 1,000 animals or more and existing farms seeking to grow. The moratorium does not apply to farms that have a legal right to build. Bayfield County Board Member Bill Bussey says that distinction gives the county time to find out more.
“We’re basically deferring our decision on whether Reicks is grandfathered or not.”
Reicks’ Noem declined to comment on the moratorium, saying they’ll have to evaluate the decision. A county committee will now form to study the impact large-scale farms have on ground water, surface water and air quality.
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