Editorial: July-August 2011
What’s happened to America’s Dairyland?
By Marg Land
As editor of Manure Manager magazine, I keep myself abreast of
happenings in the world of livestock and poultry production across North
America and, sometimes, the world.
As editor of Manure Manager magazine, I keep myself abreast of happenings in the world of livestock and poultry production across North America and, sometimes, the world. I read about new manure co-operatives in Australia, new anaerobic digesters in Germany, new manure application rules in the United Kingdom and, of course, advances in manure technology and application innovation in North America. I also read about the not-so-good news, such as manure spills, runoff situations, split application hoses, farmer deaths due to hydrogen sulfide asphyxiation or drowning in manure pits. If it involves manure, I try to keep up-to-date on it.
Because of this, I’ve been watching a situation developing in Wisconsin’s Bradford Township, located within Rock County, a 720 square mile south-central county of the state bordering with Illinois. According to the county’s website, the area’s rural land base and rich soils are predominantly used for agriculture with milk cows being one of the top livestock animals living in the county. Makes sense given that Wisconsin is the U.S.’s “Dairy State.”
But it would appear Bradford Township residents and officials are growing tired of the dairy lifestyle. For several months now, area residents appear to have been looking for various ways to keep a Nebraska dairyman from locating his 5,200-cow expansion – Rock Prairie Dairy – within their community. Despite the fact the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has already issued a permit for the $35 million project to operate, it would appear that residents in the area are doing their best to keep the dairy from going into production. The latest ploy is a petition and referendum on a decision made by the township to allow the use of Midwest Area Disaster Bonds – part of a federal program to stimulate development in states affected by flooding in 2008 – to help lower interest rates on a loan to finance the project. The funny thing is Nebraska dairyman Todd Tuls hasn’t even applied for the bond program and has said he will be continuing the project even if the bonds aren’t available to him.
This isn’t the first time residents have moved to block the dairy. Earlier this year, an ordinance was put forward by the Bradford Town Board to ban the use of center pivot sprayers as a way of applying manure to fields, a practice commonly used in Nebraska and one Tuls had been considering using on his Wisconsin operation. But, after the Wisconsin Department of Health wrote a letter to the state’s DNR, he removed the 10 center pivots from his application.
Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture and Department of Natural Resources “encouraged” the state’s towns and counties to avoid ordinances restricting agricultural technology, according to a recent report in the Janesville Gazette. In a letter addressed to the Wisconsin Towns Association and the Wisconsin Counties Association, agriculture and DNR officials stated “the agriculture industry is obligated to utilize innovative technological solutions in order to feed the world.”
But even with this advice, NIMBY-ism continues to thrive in Rock County.
“I’m looking forward to finally having an open house so we can show people the whole thing,” Tuls is quoted as saying in the Janesville Gazette. “They can see what it’s all about, and we can put some of these false rumors to rest.”
Good luck Tuls.