Bus Tour Opens Eyes and Discussion

Kewaunee Cares recently hosted members of Water Table, a coalition of organizations dedicated to water quality, for a day-long bus tour of Kewaunee County. The tour was organized to give the group a chance to see what area residents see every day. Of particular interest to the visitors was seeing the number and size of CAFOs in the county and learning how manure storage, spreading practices and lack of enforcement of violations threatens the groundwater and public health.

For many, this was the first time they had seen a CAFO up close. During the bus ride they also witnessed how manure was pouring from a tanker truck into a large dumpster-like container from which hoses deliver the liquid slurry to tractors injecting it into the soil. They also saw puddles of manure in the fields and a ditch filling with liquid manure from overflow or leakage at the transfer site from the tanker truck.

The tour group also had a “drive-through” tour of the Dairy Dreams facility in the northern part of the county. Owner Don Niles showed where his cows are kept, how they’re treated and what happens to the manure and waste water they produce.

One of the key features of Mr. Niles’ manure management system is an anaerobic digester that creates energy from methane gas, a by-product of the digesting process, and claims to reduce odors coming from the facility. But, even among CAFO owners this technology isn’t accepted as economical or effective in reducing odor. Neighboring CAFO owner, Lee Kinnard said in a Peninsula Pulse interview: “It makes absolutely zero economic sense,” he said. “Studies coming out actually indicate very negligible [reduction of], or possibly even more, odor from those types of facilities.”

Because the growth of factory farms is such a controversial issue in the county, discussions between operators and environmentalists are important to find solutions to the social and environmental issues that divide the two sides. Adding lawmakers and the DNR to the conversation will also be needed to achieve meaningful change.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Bus Tour Opens Eyes and Discussion

  1. Everyone should be taking these tours…this picture makes me want to never touch milk from a CAFO farm again.

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  2. Andy Wallander

    I recently read the November 10th, 2012 Kewaunee Cares blog entry “Bus Tour Opens Eyes and Discussion”. The piece states that “…discussions between operators and environmentalists are important to find solutions to the social and environmental issues that divide the two sides.” I couldn’t agree more.

    As County Conservationist at the Kewaunee County Land & Water Conservation Department, over the years I’ve come to realize that waiting for national or state agencies and legislators to come up with laws, complicated regulations and policies to solve local, rural neighborhood environmental issues isn’t always the most effective route to take. The process gets mired down and doesn’t accomplish many common-sense, workable solutions at all.

    Local meaningful, respectful, common-sense discussions are needed. However, discussions must be focused on local, single, specific issues. We’re never going to solve the huge national “big” farm/CAFO versus “small” farm controversy. Instead, let’s locally work on some of the more focused, local environmental issues that we have. Ones that we might actually have a chance of coming up with local common-sense, workable, voluntary solutions for.

    A smaller group of local “neighborhood” citizens, that includes the CAFO operator(s), other local farmers, and neighboring rural residents, sitting down over coffee, and respectfully discussing single, focused concerns with one another, just might accomplish more than any “blue-ribbon” task force, legislative body, or special interest group ever could. Who knows? Maybe we all would even walk away a little smarter and happier. Local discussion…local solutions.

    Discussions like these could be hosted here through Land & Water Conservation. However, let’s remember, the keys to a successful, lasting solution are always 1) local, single, specific issues, and 2) meaningful, respectful, common-sense discussions. Think about it. If anyone out there is interested, let me know…I’ll supply the coffee.

    – Andy Wallander

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