Guest Column: ‘Unfettered expansion of large livestock operations’ a threat to tourism, public health

Editor’s note (from Frank Schier, editor and publisher of The Rock River Times and founder and coordinator of the Rock River Trail Initiative): The following letter is a continuation of this paper’s long-standing editorial position of opposing CAFOs’ pollution in our area and all of Illinois.

Wisconsin shines as the magnificent source and host to half of our Rock River Trail. As evidenced by formerly clear and clean streams’ algae blooms and mysterious fish kills, this foul environmental bombing must stop, or we will never reach our goal of having the Rock River as the cleanest tributary to the Mississippi by 2030. No one wants to swim, fish, ski, boat, kayak, canoe or visit manure-stained water. Yikes, not to mention the stench!

I ask that all of our Rock River Trail council members, fine advisers and supporters echo and duplicate the excellent and courageous effort of Greg Farnham. He has my full support on this long-term threat to the Rock River Trail Initiative and tourism in Wisconsin.

To: Stephanie Klett, Secretary

Wisconsin Department of Tourism

201 W. Washington Ave.

P.O. Box 8690

Madison, WI 53708-8690

Re: Aerial Spray Irrigation of Livestock Manure

Dear Secretary Klett:

The Rock River Trail Initiative is a two-state public/private partnership to provide a system of recreational trails on and along the Rock River through Wisconsin and Illinois. The goal of the Initiative is to establish the Rock River and its communities as a recreational and leisure destination with national reach. We have the pleasure of working with David Spiegelberg of your department on our promotion and marketing effort.

I write on a matter of concern with the negative impact to tourism from administration policies that allow unfettered expansion of large livestock operations throughout the state, and in particular within the Rock River corridor. It appears that pressure by DATCP [Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection] and dairy and other livestock producers has resulted in co-opting of the DNR [Department of Natural Resources] regulatory process to facilitate permitting of more and larger livestock operations, despite considerable evidence and a long history of serious human health and water quality problems. There are currently 43 CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) within the Rock River basin of Wisconsin.

Now we find that DATCP, DNR and producers are aggressively pushing use of aerial spray irrigation as a means to dispose of fecal waste and manure lagoon contents on large farms. There is considerable controversy regarding risks to human health from such use and a number of technical publications provide evidence of safety hazards from pathogenic microorganisms, toxic and malodorous compounds and antibiotic resistance determinants found in livestock manure.

We received testimony from two persons who encountered the hazards of aerial manure spray while traveling on public highways in Indiana and Wisconsin (attached). I can attest to the sickening smell and respiratory distress when one is engulfed in transmission drift of aerosolized manure.

This is not how we want to welcome visitors to the Rock River Trail. Nor do I think Travel Wisconsin desires a central pivot manure sprayer to become the de facto symbol of Wisconsin as your department works hard to promote our state as the Midwest’s premier travel destination for fun!

Aerial spray of livestock manure is unnecessary, dangerous to the health of our rural residents and visitors, damaging to our rural communities with consumer service and hospitality businesses, and violates the general principle of sanitation and hygiene — erect a barrier between fecal sources and water, air, food and human contact.

Manure spray irrigation is a sure way to prevent folks from enjoying the outdoors in Wisconsin.

We ask that you advocate for responsible and safe public policy by requesting a moratorium on manure spray irrigation and revision of s. NR 214.14 so as to protect public health.

Please let me know if you have questions or would like additional information.

We appreciate your outstanding leadership to encourage tourism in Wisconsin.


Gregory M. Farnham

Coordinator, Rock River Trail Initiative

Frank Schier (co-signed)

Founder and Chairman, Rock River Trail Initiative

Cc: Senator Terry Moulton, Chair, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism;

Representative Dean Kaufert, Chair, Assembly Committee on Tourism

From the Aug. 6-12, 2014, issue

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