Friday, November 24, 2006

Location, Location, Location - CAFO Considerations

You hear it talked about by Real Estate reps all the time -- location, location, location -- and there are many factors that will influence their assessment of a property prior to listing.

But, what are the Top 5 location decision factors for Dairy CAFO owners when selecting a potential site?

According to one study published in 2003 in the Journal of Dairy Science titled "Identification and Characterization of Location Decision Factors for Relocating Dairy Farms" here they are in order of overall importance to Dairy farm owners.

The Top 5 overall most important Location Decision Factors for Dairy Farms were:

1) availability of fresh water supplies
2) availability of land for waste management
3) average mailbox price of milk
4) quality of fresh water supply, and
5) complexity of laws governing waste management

The study also noted: "Factors pertaining to dairy production activities, such as cost of feeds and milk handling, were prevalent among those LDF in the upper quartile of importance."

What happened to:

1) public health/safety considerations in regards to proximity to area residents?

2) environmental safety considerations? (potential runoff dangers, potential water contamination issues, potential insect problems, etc.)

3) potential for spread of disease &/or infection of cows and/or wildlife?

4) sufficient infrastructures in place for traffic to and from location?

5) potential for future "nuisance lawsuits" in future?

Maybe the 2nd list of 5 items isn't very important to the Dairy CAFO owners in this Jasper County case, but perhaps they should take a closer look at the location they've chosen before the next BZA meeting.

Regarding item 1; it's no secret they're planning this facility adjacent to a large residential subdivision... and I'm pretty certain they're also aware it's a fairly populated area ...for a rural location.

Studies like the following should come as no surprise to them:

- "With increased productivity has come the need for fewer cows to produce milk on a per capita basis and increases in net income per cow. However, compared with energetic efficiency, the efficiency of using feed protein to make milk protein has not increased as dramatically, partly because cows are often fed protein in excess. This nitrogen waste is an environmental concern; N (Nitrogen) losses in manure contribute to water pollution and ammonia emissions from dairy farms."

- "Soil P (Phosphorus) levels in the 30-cm layer were above state threshold standards, most likely from overapplication of manure."

- "The economic risk of underfeeding protein is greater than the risk of overfeeding protein, so protein efficiency has not been maximized in the past, nor is it likely to be maximized in the near future. Most cows also are fed excess P, a notable contaminant of surface waters, but several recent studies have shown that feeding P above NRC recommendations has no utility for milk production or fertility."

There's tons more clinical studies on the subject of manure problems relating to Dairy CAFOs... I just listed a handful of the more recent studies above. You have to travel outside of the USA to look at some of the more dangerous health risks associated to Dairy farms. For example:

- "Bacteria were isolated from dairy cows, dairy farm environments, and dairy workers in 2 geographically different areas of eastern and northern Taiwan. Isolates were evaluated for antimicrobial susceptibility and the phylogenetics of isolated Escherichia coli O157:H7 were characterized. A total of 1,346 bacteria were identified, including 226 E. coli, 30 Pseudomonas spp. (7 Pseudomonas aeruginosa), 259 other gram-negative bacteria, 271 Enterococcus spp., 314 Staphylococcus spp., 195 Streptococcus spp., and 51 other gram-positive bacteria."

Regarding item 2; since they're calling it "Wolf Creek Calf Company LLC" I'm assuming they are aware of the water bodies in the area. And from what I've heard they're aware that there just might not be enough land for the distribution of their manure. (Just a rumor at this point -- I heard they're bidding on more land in the immediate vicinity.)

You can read through some of the studies above, or easily find hundreds more, on the subject of Dairy farm manure and waste water problems.

To get the "Big" picture regarding waters in Northwestern Indiana, check this out.

Now, maybe the CAFO owners are thinking they can just tap into the environmental grant budgets to solve any problems that come up?

Think again. According to "Clean Water Indiana" administered by the DNR, a multi'faceted strategy, including focusing "...state resources at the local level to reduce water pollution from agricultural and urban stormwater runoff"


"There is simply not enough conservation cost-share and grant money available from current state or federal programs to fulfill the need for assistance to Indiana's urban and rural landowners. In 1999, public demand exceeded available federal and state conservation cost-share and grant dollars by more than $11 million."

Sidenote Regarding Water Supply in this area: "Between 1981 and 1989, IDNR staff investigated more than 225 complaints of water-supply problems in northern Jasper and Newton Counties. Most problems reported for shallow water wells were the result of seasonal water-table fluctuations in the sand aquifer, and generally were corrected by upgrading the wells. Losses of water supply in wells completed in the carbonate aquifer, however, frequently resulted from water-level declines induced by high-capacity irrigation pumpage from the bedrock."

In response to recurring ground-water conflicts in Jasper and Newton Counties, the IDNR Division of Water has suggested several water-management alternatives in an attempt to alleviate the potential for future conflicts, particularly during the irrigation season and during periods of drought. The suggested alternatives call for

1) the additional development of the surficial sand aquifer as an alternative or complementary ground-water source for irrigation;

2) an examination of the need for localized restrictions on the drilling of new high-capacity bedrock wells;

3) the implementation of water-conservation practices in some irrigation areas;

4) the proper installation of small-capacity wells; and

5) continued coordination with the State of Illinois to manage irrigation development in the bi-state area where the carbonate aquifer is heavily pumped.

(Link to source.)

As for item 3; this new proposed Dairy/Calving CAFO is nestled nicely in a forested area frequently visited by white-tail deer, so I'm assuming the owners already are aware of this study by divisions of the USDA and the Center for Disease Control completed in Wisconsin regarding black-legged ticks. In it the authors state, "The risk of encountering adult blacklegged ticks on dairy farms in Barron County, Wisconsin is therefore greatest in woodlands habitat."

Oh, but maybe they aren't aware of the coyote problem in this neck of the woods? By now, they already know this is a major flyway for Sandhill Cranes. I'm assuming the CAFO operators are aware of what E. coli does to migratory birds?

As for item 4; I guess they're not worried about this, since they managed to get quite a long stretch of newly blacktopped road (more like a highway) put in for other facilities they own -- hundreds of thousands of $ -- compliments of the taxpayers. They'll just "lobby" the politicians for more of the same.

Regarding item 5; well jeepers creepers, when that many people turn out (I heard someone counted up to 500 people) in protest of a CAFO operation before it has even begun, don't you think that maybe -- just maybe -- area residents are going to be keeping a VERY CLOSE eye on everything they do? I'm no lawyer, but doesn't it spell a higher potential for "nuisance lawsuit" trouble down the road?

My heart goes out to residents of Roselawn. I've heard of their plight -- drove through that area yesterday -- being upwind, as they are, from Fair Oaks Farms. The comments I've received thus far are heartbreaking. I'm just guessing (and this is just a humble guess on my part) that if a group of environmental attorney's listened closely, I'm thinking they could probably find a strong class action suit within that community.

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