In October 2019, the Polk County Board, like Burnett before them, enacted a moratorium on hog Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to study the matter further. Polk County’s six-month moratorium was half that of Burnett’s 12-month, which had passed in August.

The halt on new permit requests for large hog operations allowed the county board to look into concerns including questions about whether increased manure runoff would contaminate the land, water and air. This prohibits any new permits for farms over 1,000 hogs until April 15, 2020.

The resolution authorized county staff to study the issue and required the Polk County administrator to present findings and recommendations about CAFOs by March 15, 2020.

A stakeholders’ meeting was held January 21 when three groups, agriculture producers, local officials/moratorium committee members and concerned citizens, were each allotted one hour to share their input and concerns regarding new CAFO regulations. The information received from surveys given at the meetings was presented to the Environmental Services Committee the following day.

Of the surveys given to stakeholders, 55 said they were residents of Polk County, 2 said they were not, some chose not to answer, 33 respondents were part of the “Citizen Group,” 6 were from the “Local Official Group” and 24 were representing the “Ag Producer Group.”

Those taking the survey were asked if they were livestock producers (i.e., 15 dairy cows, 20 beef cows, 2000 chickens, 1111 turkeys, 50 pigs) 26% were, 74% were not. When asked if Polk County should prohibit swine CAFOs, 72% said yes, while 26% said no. The rest were unsure.

76% percent of respondents felt CAFOs would be detrimental to Polk County. 23% said they would not, with some left unsure.

15% of survey participants said Polk County should not regulate what type of livestock exists within a CAFO, 11% felt the county should only regulate swine operations and 74% felt all livestock CAFOs should be regulated.

Just how many animal units should be regulated? 40% felt animal units over 250 should be regulated. 23% felt it should be animal units over 1000; 14% said units over 500; 12% said 750 or more and 11% felt it should be reserved for animal units above 1250.

When it came to the subject of what the greatest impact from swine CAFOs might be, most people, 60% felt it might impact water quality.

82% of respondents said CAFO regulations would not prevent expansion, while 11% felt it would; 8% were unsure.

One question on the survey asked if CAFO regulations were unnecessarily burdensome; 78% replied, “No.” 17% replied, “Yes.” 5% remained unsure.

Another question asked what the greatest benefits of CAFOs would be. While 79% felt there were no benefits, 15% felt it could be a benefit for local jobs/local economy. 11% said a benefit could be proper management of Ag land and 5% thought they could contribute to continuing family farms.

Possible conditions discussed on the survey included: 

350’ setback (larger setbacks)

Air quality regulations/monitoring

Disclose any violations in CUP application

Add CUP in all AG districts and all livestock

Extend the moratorium

Disease response strategy for swine diseases

30 acre minimum

No more than 1000 pigs

Don’t exceed 2000 animal units

Public notification of any lack of compliance

Compensation for damages and loss of property value

Cap total animal units

Test wells in every field to be spread

Surety Bonds to enforce

It shall remain to be seen how the information gathered will affect the direction Polk County Board members plan to take regarding CAFOs. It has been placed on the agenda for their meeting Feb. 12.

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