Citizens concerned about how concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) could affect Polk County have been voicing their concerns to the Polk County Board of Supervisors. Some have urged the county to adopt a resolution similar to Bayfield County. In a 13-1 vote, supervisors did just that.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines a CAFO as an animal feeding operation (AFO) with more than 1000 animal units (an animal unit is defined as an animal equivalent of 1000 pounds live weight and equates to 1000 head of beef cattle, 700 dairy cows, 2500 swine weighing more than 55 lbs, 125 thousand broiler chickens, or 82 thousand laying hens or pullets) confined on site for more than 45 days during the year. Any size AFO that discharges manure or wastewater into a natural or man-made ditch, stream or other waterway is defined as a CAFO, regardless of size. 

At the August meeting of the Supervisors, a motion was made to bring Resolution No. 39-21: Resolution Urging the State of Wisconsin to Adequately Fund State Agencies Regarding CAFO Regulations to Protect Groundwater and Air Quality to the floor. Chairman Chris Nelson, who authored the resolution stepped down and called for First Vice Chair John Bonneprise to run the discussion.

Nelson said he had brought the resolution to Environmental services as well as Health and Human Services. “Basically, this is from all of the months of people calling me, sending me emails and me drafting letters. I figured this would give us an opportunity to tell the public again from the County’s side, what we think is important. There is a lot of misinformation out there,” said Nelson.

He also said he doesn’t feel there is a Supervisor who disagrees with public comments about wanting to keep the county clean. “The public seems to think the county has total control over who comes and operates a hog CAFO in our communities and we don’t. It is a State issue. We do have some impact on it, but this to be continually discussed and broadcast and misinformation being put out there that this is a county issue-it is a State issue,” said Nelson.

The resolution reads:


WHEREAS, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) have the

potential to negatively impact groundwater and air quality if they do not comply

with strict business practices; and

WHEREAS, some swine CAFOs, both within Wisconsin and outside of this

State, have created significant fear in the community about the potential

negative impact of new and expanding CAFOs; and

WHEREAS, the Polk County Board of Supervisors is dedicated to

protecting our groundwater and air quality from all types of potential

contaminates, including, but not limited to, CAFOs; and

WHEREAS, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Clean Wisconsin Inc. v.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently (July 8, 2021) decided

that the WDNR has broad regulatory authority to establish targeted and specific

enhanced conditions when issuing and/or renewing Pollutant Discharge

Elimination System permits, such as animal unit maximums and off-site

groundwater monitoring; and

WHEREAS, local governmental units, particularly counties, are statutorily

limited in their ability to regulate CAFOs; and

WHEREAS, Polk County has previously enacted conditional use permit

zoning regulations to provide some level of local control of the locations and

requirements of future or expanded swine CAFOs; however the public

continues to express concerns that the CUP process is not sufficient, despite

the limitations on the County’s underlying authority.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Polk County Board of

Supervisors hereby urges the State of Wisconsin to adequately fund the

Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture, Trade

and Consumer Protection so they can vigorously monitor and regulate all of the

existing and future CAFOs to the fullest extent of its authority.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Polk County Board of Supervisors

urges the State Legislature and the Governor to fully fund the various

regulatory agencies (WDNR; WDTACP, etc.) so that they have the resources

they need to adequately monitor and regulate CAFOs.

After a few failed attempts to change some of the wording of the resolution, Vice Chair Bonneprise called for roll call vote on motion to approve Resolution No. 39-21 as written and presented. Motion to adopt Resolution 36-21 carried by majority roll call vote of 13 in favor, 1 opposed. (Opposed: Route). Resolution No. 39-21: Resolution Urging the State of Wisconsin to Adequately Fund State Agencies Regarding CAFO Regulations to Protect Groundwater and Air Quality adopted.

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