A proposed hog "megafarm" in northern Wisconsin is raising concerns among some residents that millions of gallons of pig manure will eventually wash off the land and pollute Lake Superior.
An Iowa business plans to produce thousands of pigs annually a few miles from Ashland and the shore of Chequamegon Bay. If plans are approved by state and federal regulators, the $17.7 million farm would be the largest hog farm in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1NohAoP ) reported.
The Bayfield County farm, which the owners are calling Badgerwood, also would become the largest concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, in far northern Wisconsin, according to state officials.
There are currently no such operations in the Lake Superior basin. That could change if Badgerwood gets the go-ahead. An existing dairy farm in Iron County also has grown to the point that Department of Natural Resources officials say it, too, will qualify as such a facility.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it will review the project because of the size of the farm and concerns raised by Wisconsin American Indian tribes. The state DNR is expected to announce this week whether to require a lengthy environmental impact statement.
"What I want to know is why do they want to come here?" asked Mary Dougherty of Bayfield, who has been active in opposing the project.
Opponents are concerned about odors and the threat of water pollution from the 6.8 million gallons of liquid manure that will be spread annually on more than 800 acres in the White River and Fish Creek watersheds, which flow into Lake Superior.
Badgerwood is being proposed by Reicks View Farms of Lawler, Iowa, which has extensive operations in its home state.
Gene Noem, director of swine operations for Reicks, said in an email his company was attracted to northern Wisconsin because it is far from hog-intensive areas of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and southern Wisconsin, where the potential for spreading animal diseases is greater.
Badgerwood would raise female pigs to maturity and ship them to Iowa farms, Noem said. "Isolating these farms helps us to ensure that the next generation of pigs will continue to maintain high herd health," he said.
In Wisconsin, the company plans to house 7,500 sows, 18,750 pigs and 100 boars, the company said in records filed with the DNR.
As details of the farm emerged earlier this year, Bayfield and Iron counties each approved one-year moratoriums on the development of large-scale farms. The moratoriums could be extended for a second year.
Residents of Ashland get their water from Chequamegon Bay. The potential of algae blooms spurred by manure runoff could harm drinking water supplies, said Mayor Debra S. Lewis.
"We are talking about one of the most pristine areas of the state up here," Lewis said. "Water is what we are passionate about. It's why we live here. It's a resource that is not negotiable."
But beef farmer Clay Burditt said local opposition to the farm is a "minority claiming to be the majority."
"Really, what this represents is an attack on modern farming," he said. "We can raise crops and animals faster and healthier and more safely than our fathers could."