WASHBURN - Bayfield County will take 12 months to study concentrated animal feeding operations after residents turned out in opposition to Reicks View Farms’ proposed operation in the county.

The Bayfield County Board approved the moratorium in an 8-5 vote Wednesday night.

A committee composed of six County Board supervisors and six community members will study the potential impact a CAFO could have on the county and the Lake Superior and Ashland water systems.

Reicks View purchased 568 acres in the town of Eileen near an existing dairy facility for about  $1.24 million. The proposed farm is close to Benoit and about 8 miles southwest of Ashland.

Opposition has grown, and there has been pressure both within the County Board and without to act to preserve what County Supervisor William Bussey has called “the county’s environmental and agricultural local ethic.”

A petition started Jan. 29 on Moveon.org asking the supervisors to pass a “two-year moratorium on livestock facility siting” garnered 3,075 signatures through Monday - including 1,360 from Bayfield and Ashland counties.

Opponents of the CAFO say it’s too risky to produce such concentrated amounts of waste in and around the Fish Creek Watershed, which empties into Lake Superior.

Glenn Stoddard, an attorney in the city of Bayfield, told the board on behalf of opponents to Reicks View’s proposal that litigation is going to occur to stop the proposal no matter what the County Board approved.

“We’re going to stop this thing … because this is a disaster waiting to happen,” he told the board.

Stoddard urged the board to approve the moratorium, which he said would lessen the acrimony that’s been bubbling up about the issue in Bayfield County since December.

“Stand up for the people. Stand up for Bayfield County as a government institution,” he said.

Jim Zorn, who would live a half-mile downwind from the proposed CAFO, asked the board to slow down and take the time to understand the potential effects on the area.

“Please stand up for us next door,” he said.

Although many turned out in opposition to the CAFO, several area farmers said the moratorium would suggest that farming isn’t welcome in Bayfield County.

Jessica Pierce, a hog farmer in Eileen, said she feared the moratorium could affect her farm. Those in opposition aren’t experienced in hog farming, but rather are “only experienced in retrieving information on Google,” she said.

“I’m tired of hearing negativity related to an operation regulated by the DNR,” she said.

Lauren Skye, a farmer in Mason, noted that the CAFO issue had become a “three-ring circus” that began when Reicks View proposed a CAFO and “someone pushed the panic button on factory farms.” Opponents have only recently taken an interest in farming, she said, inviting them “to come to my house at midnight to do beef checks.”

However, many opponents countered that argument by saying that the moratorium wasn’t a vote against farming in general.

Barksdale resident John Thomas said he was concerned with the money needed to study CAFOs for 12 months. The County Board approved $10,000 for the study during Wednesday’s meeting. Thomas said the state will gather the same information the 12-member committee will learn during the moratorium, essentially using his taxes for a redundant study.

“Why do we always assume someone’s hiding something?” he asked.

The board’s approval came after a contentious meeting in which three people were removed by Bayfield County sheriff’s deputies and Washburn police officers, in addition to a member of the audience removing himself from the meeting after his outburst. The boardroom was full, people lined the hallways and a video feed was being shown in an overflow room.

After audience members reached the board’s public comment time limit, a line of audience members still waited to speak, causing outbursts among those in line. Officers and deputies stood in the room to keep it under control.

Stoddard questioned the board’s direction to remove the audience members, saying “What are you doing, bringing people out by the cops?” He asked the board to let people have a debate and comment on the potential CAFO.

The furor over Reicks View Farms’ potential move into Bayfield County began in December, after the fifth-generation pork producers from near New Hampton, Iowa filed an initial application with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. In it, farm owner Dale Reicks stated his intentions to start a concentrated animal feeding operation that would make it the northernmost CAFO in the state.  

Reicks View Farms would be making its first venture out of Iowa to produce piglets that would be trucked back to Iowa to be raised there. The farm’s application is for more than 25,000 animals, including 7,500 mature animals, 5,200 pigs that have yet to give birth and the remaining 14,000-plus piglets on a farm with three large industrial barns. Reicks View has said in a “project overview” that manure will be stored in “rebar reinforced concrete pits under the buildings” with no open-air manure storage. The pits are pumped and the manure knifed into the soil that produces grains and “forages for feeding the dairy cows.”

The County Board acted in January to prohibit aerial spraying of manure onto fields.

News Tribune reporter Brady Slater contributed to this report.

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