Support Agricultural Sustainability and Clean Water

July 13, 2011 at 3:34 pm

(from left to right) Todd Hanson, Wisconsin Trout Unlimited State Council Secretary,  Ray White, Retired Assoc. Prof. of Fisheries Science, and Sara Strassman, Director, River  Restoration Program at American Rivers

(from left to right) Todd Hanson (Wisconsin Trout Unlimited State Council Secretary), Ray White (Retired Assoc. Prof. of Fisheries Science at Montana State University), and Sara Strassman (Director, River Restoration Program at American Rivers) discuss water quality issues and trout habitat on the West Branch of the White River, Wautoma, WI, in the fall of 2010.

Today, we have a guest post from my BFF, Alistair George Stewart.

Alistair is an avid cold water resource conservationist and trout fisherman. He’s spent a lot of time over the last 15 years exploring pure, crystal-clear streams throughout Wisconsin. The time he has spent there has made him a lover of the Sand Hills Ecoregion in particular. Read below about an imminent threat to a resource we all depend upon – clean, safe water.

CAFOs, meaning large-scale confinement animal feeding operations, are the epitome of industrial agriculture. Virtually every argument made in support of CAFOs is based on their supposed economic benefits to rural communities – promises upon which they have consistently failed to deliver.

While the promised economic benefits of CAFOs are illusions, their environmental and social costs are real. Today, there is no legitimate basis for the denial of those costs. Virtually every socioeconomic study done on the subject in the past 50-years has shown that both the social and economic quality of life is better in communities characterized by small, diversified family farms. Even in cases where larger, specialized farming operations have brought more jobs and total income to communities, they have also brought greater inequity in income distribution.

Recently I learned of the proposed Richfield CAFO, in Wisconsin’s Adams County, on the eastern edge of the Central Sand Plains Ecoregion, immediately adjacent to the Central Sand Hills Ecoregion. The potential environmental degradations caused by such a large facility in areas recognized for their environmental significance and sensitivity concern me greatly. The planned water resource impacts alone are staggering and frightening.

CAFO’s of the proposed size generate toxic waste products in quantities comparable to those of some cities but, unlike cities, are largely unregulated and are prone to accidents causing environmental catastrophes. I fear that if the planned CAFO is given the go-ahead, built and operated, its adverse effects will be significant and very likely irreversible. I am very concerned that Richfield Dairy’s economic promises are overly optimistic, and will garner more support than they may truly merit. I believe the associated risks will get inadequate attention in the debate. Time and again in situations like this, the public winds up suffering and paying the price when something goes wrong.

Learn more about the threats to family farms and a healthy environment posed by the proposed Richfield CAFO here:

The truth about CAFO’s can be found here, from where some of the introductory information above originated:

If you support family farms and want a healthy environment, sign this petition to the Wisconsin DNR opposing an imminent threat to both.