Proposal for concentrated animal feeding operation concerns Bayfield County residents

Subsidiary of Iowa farm would be hog farrowing operation

 

By RICK OLIVO - The Daily Press (WI)

September 30, 2014

 

A proposal to establish a hog farrowing operation in the Town of Eileen in Bayfield County has raised concerns by several Bayfield county residents, who fear the potential impacts on groundwater, odors caused by hog manure and impacts on existing organic farming operations.

 

They plan to take those concerns to the Bayfield county Board meeting tonight, even though no firm commitment to build a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) has yet been announced.

 

According to Duane Popple, a wastewater specialist with the Agricultural Runoff Section of the Department of Natural Resources, he has spoken with Dale Reicks of Reicks View Farm near Lawler, Iowa about the possibility of operating a farrowing facility on Franzel Road in the Bayfield County Town of Eileen.

 

However, Popple said matters have not moved beyond the conversation stage.

 

“Right now, there is nothing officially established, as far as anything going in there. There’s no application, there is nothing in-house,” he said. “Mr. Reicks has come to me and said ‘we would like to put a farrowing operation in Bayfield County.

 

A farrowing operation is one that brings a number of breeding sows to a covered building where they sows are kept until the piglets are born. They remain with their mothers for several days before they are removed to a rearing operation in a different location.

 

Popple said the proposed farrowing operation would operate at 999 hog-equivalent units, the largest number of hogs that could be brought in without a Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) wastewater discharge permit.

 

“Mr. Reicks has been talking to me as far as getting information is concerned. He said that he would like to put an operation there that would probably be a CAFO operation, but he hasn’t decided yet either way.”

 

Popple said he had no indication that any land had been purchased at the location.

 

An attempt to contact a spokesperson for Reicks View farm for comment was unsuccessful Monday. A representative of the firm declined comment, but indicated that a company spokesperson might be available for comment at a later date.

 

Reick’s View Farm was founded by Dale and Laura Reicks in 1977 and is located near Lawler, Iowa, growing corn and producing pork products. The firm employs about 150 people.

 

Despite the fact that no firm plans for the farrowing operation have yet been put forth, a number of area residents have indicated their concerns about the possible impacts such a farm could bring.

 

According to Eileen McCutchen, owner of Angel Acres Farm in the Town of Kelly, about four miles from the proposed farrowing operation, the potential for damage to her own hog farming operation is substantial.

 

McCutchen raises about 150 organically reared Berkshire hogs a year and also grows corn organically for their feed. She said the reason Reicks is seeking to come to Bayfield County is clear.

 

“They have a terrible problem with PEDv in Iowa,” she said. “They want to come here because there have been only nine cases of it in Wisconsin, all of them right around the border, and northern Wisconsin has so far been clean.”

 

PEDv, or Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, is a newly reported malady and has killed millions of infant pigs across the nation, and is responsible for a dramatic rise in the price of pork. In less than two years, PEDv has killed some 10 percent of the nation’s pig population, and it has some farmers struggling to remain in business.

 

“It’s like Ebola for piggies,” McCutchen said. “It’s 100 percent fatal in newborn pigs.”

 

McCutchen fears hat if hogs are imported and carry the virus, her small operation could be infected as well. Popple agreed that physical separation from the PEDv hotspots.

 

“It’s all bio-security,” he said.

 

Popple noted that if baby pigs can be kept PEDv-free until they weigh at least 55 pounds, they are virtually immune from the disease. That is what is leading some hog farmers to get their farrowing operations away from areas where the disease is rampant.

 

“The pork industry is testing the waters here,” Popple said. “The big problem is that PEDv is a problem in Iowa as a result of crowding. They are really making an attempt to make sure that these farms are 30 to 60 miles apart.”

 

That means millions of dollars of investment in Wisconsin.

 

“We have a 6,000 hog operation just finishing construction in Eleva just south of Eau Claire, then we have two operations just completing construction at Glen Flora, near Ladysmith, one of 2,500 hogs and three miles away there is another one of 2,500. One is going to be a farrowing operation and one is going to be a grow-out operation.”

 

Both of those facilities, like the one proposed for Bayfield County are just under the 999 hog equivalent limit that would trigger a WPDES permit.

 

While there are a few area dairy facilities that approach or exceed CAFO status, this would be the first hog production facility to do so. Popple said while hog CAFOs are not unknown in Wisconsin, they are all located much further south than Ashland or Bayfield County

 

Technology is also another big part of the fight against PEDv, Popple said. The Glen Flora operation, with state of the art technology will be watched closely to see how they fare.

 

Popple said the Reicks operation got good marks for their management practices in Iowa.

 

“Their barns are sealed with air filtration systems. That’s how they’ve gotten successful, but it is very expensive for them.”

 

Popple said they would have to do as well if they came to Wisconsin.

 

“If the PEDv disease came here, this industry would be out of here. It’s not cost effective for them to be up here if they have to deal with it,” he said. “It’s their intent not to bring it up. The hogs will be brought in from other locations.

 

It is not just the issue of PEDv that worries McCutcheon. She also fears that as part of the operation, GMO corn could be grown, which could contaminate her organic operation. Other concerns include contamination of groundwater through injection of liquid hog manure into the fields as fertilizer.

 

“It could also have a huge impact from the smell on tourism,” she said...

 

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