After months of discussion and committee meetings, the Polk County board of supervisors Oct. 15 passed a moratorium on concentrated animal feeding operations, commonly referred to as CAFOs, by an 11-3 vote.

The board had two resolutions on their agenda, both passed by the Environmental Services Committee of the board. One dealt with cattle, swine, poultry, sheep and goats; the second dealt with swine exclusively.

In the end, after an hourlong process, the board passed the first resolution, striking the language about cattle, poultry, sheep and goats. The moratorium that passed dealt only with swine operations of 1,000 units or more. 

The second resolution, which dealt exclusively with swine operations, was not acted on following the passage of the amended moratorium.

The executive summary of the moratorium says, “This Resolution will temporarily suspend the permitting of CAFOs for the specific purpose of determining whether or not it would be in the County’s best interest to impose regulations at the local level for siting purposes. It is anticipated that the County will explore whether CAFOs should be a conditional use for zoning purposes. The County may also explore whether a CAFO siting ordinance is necessary or advantageous to further the health and safety of the County. This Resolution does not have the effect of ultimately prohibiting CAFOs.”

Supervisor Chris Nelson made a motion to discuss the two resolutions together. He accused Board Chair Dean Johansen, author of one of the resolutions, of not being neutral and asked if Johansen would relinquish the chair so he could answer questions about the resolution. Johansen refused and after more discussion about what would happen if the first resolution was approved, the motion was withdrawn.

Supervisor Brad Olson made a motion about changing the number of livestock units in the moratorium from 1,000 to 1, commenting that passage of a moratorium would set the county back 50 years. 

“If we pass this, it will destroy the county,” Olson said.

Supervisor Michael Prichard commented that the issue was complex and wasn’t going to be “solved by 15 people,” indicating the board.

“I do appreciate your facetious amendment,” Prichard said to Olson.

The amendment was defeated 13-2.

Nelson made the motion to strike the language about all animals except swine. He questioned who would monitor the number of animals.

“It’s a hog issue,” Nelson said, referring to a new CAFO application in Burnett County that has fueled the discussion in Polk County. “It doesn’t affect one farmer in the county,” Nelson said.

The amendment on striking other animals passed by an 8-6 vote.

An amendment to cut down the length of the moratorium from six months to four months was made by Olson, seconded by Nelson. It was eventually withdrawn.

Supervisors Olson, Brian Masters and Joe Demulling voted against the moratorium.

The resolution says the moratorium’s purpose is “to allow Polk County adequate time to study, review, consider and analyze the potential impacts of Livestock Facilities in Polk County.”

The moratorium goes into effect immediately.

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