The Ashland County Board in Wisconsin has voted to direct its staff to develop a proposal for a two-year moratorium on large animal farms amid concerns about pollution from a huge proposed hog farm just a few miles from Lake Superior.
Thursday's 17-3 vote flowed from the debate over plans to put the proposed "megafarm" south of Ashland and Chequamegon Bay— making it the first concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, in the Lake Superior watershed. The proposed Badgerwood farm would house 26,000 swine, mostly piglets.
If plans are approved by state and federal regulators, the $17.7 million farm would be the largest hog operation in Wisconsin.
Opponents are concerned about odors and the threat of water pollution from the millions gallons of liquid manure that would be spread annually on hundreds of acres of farmland in Lake Superior watersheds. The Department of Natural Resources said in June that it would require a full environmental impact study.
Badgerwood is proposed by Reicks View Farms of Lawler, Iowa, which has extensive operations in its home state. The company says it is interested in northern Wisconsin because it's far from hog-intensive areas of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and southern Wisconsin, where the potential for spreading animal diseases is greater. It says the sow-breeding farm will abide by all clean-water rules.
The cities of Ashland, Bayfield and Washburn and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission have already called for a moratorium to give the county time to develop ordinances to regulate large animal farms.
Ashland City Council Member Richard Ketring told the board that the moratorium is needed so the county can develop policies dealing with CAFOs before they become a reality, the Ashland Daily Press reported Friday.
"We've got a challenge ahead of us and it is going to require the county to adapt," he said.
County board member James Oakley said the vote doesn't mean that the board will declare a moratorium, but that it wants to have such a document drafted in case it's needed later.
"It will be done in a way to put us in front of anything before we are faced with it," he said.