Series: CAFOs, Manure And Water

Wisconsin's wealth of freshwater is foundational to the state's agricultural economy. As livestock farms in the state grow ever larger in the 21st century, their impact on this resource is growing. The largest of these farms are termed concentrated animal feeding operations, often called CAFOs. These farms with hundreds or thousands of animals not only require more water, but they also produce colossal amounts of manure. Managing this livestock byproduct is a major undertaking. Manure can serve as a resource for fertilizing crops or for generating energy. At the same time, this waste regularly enters surface and groundwater, contaminating wells and wildlife habitat. How manure is handled is a focus of policymaking, and its increasing volumes can contribute to contentious relationships between CAFO operators and their neighbors.
 
Dunn County is the latest Wisconsin community to consider a temporary ban on large-scale dairy and other farming operations.
Farms that raise animals — be they poultry, pigs, cows or other livestock — are growing. But whether smaller farms are simply updated with modern technologies or are concentrated animal feeding operations with hundreds or thousands of animals, they enable farmers to reduce costs and increase output.
The debate over a proposed large hog operation in Bayfield County raises questions over how much power Wisconsin's local governments have to regulate farms.
Kewaunee County, home to about 20,000 people on the lower half of the Door Peninsula, is hardly the only place in Wisconsin that's seen a rapid growth of concentrated animal feeding operations, but it has become central to a debate over how to regulate manure irrigation.
Cory Cochart
In recent years, the smell, environmental impacts and human health risks of spraying liquefied manure over crop fields has raised questions and concerns among a growing number of Wisconsin residents.
Town of Lincoln chair Cory Cochart said the community banned liquid manure irrigation because of health risks related to inhaling pathogens, and the township is prepared to stand up to higher government officials who want to override its decision.
University of Wisconsin professor Ken Genskow is chair of a work group studying the safety of liquid manure irrigation and its effects on health and the environment in places where it is used.