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Committee rejects county moratorium
MONROE - The Green County Land and Water Conservation Committee on Thursday voted against creating a countywide year-long moratorium on new large-scale dairy farms.

A motion against creating a moratorium passed on a 5-1 vote. Committee chairman Oscar Olson was the sole member in favor of the ordinance.

The proposed measure would have imposed a year-long timeout, from April 2016 to May 2017, on the new construction of any livestock facilities exceeding 1,000 cows. During that time, a seven-member Large-Scale Livestock Study Committee, comprised of three county officials and four Green County residents, would research the impact of a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation on the area - specifically on groundwater, surface water and air quality.

Gordon Klossner moved the committee not recommend a moratorium.

"I'm not sure why we need a moratorium because who are we stopping?" Klossner said. "No one."

Klossner said he preferred that municipalities pass their own separate measures, a growing trend since the Township of Sylvester passed a moratorium in September. He encouraged that government control be as local as possible.

Sylvester township passed the moratorium after a group of concerned citizens expressed an interest in investigating the impact that a proposed 5,000-cow dairy could have on the land. The CAFO Pinnacle Dairy applied to build a large-scale facility over 127 acres along County FF and Decatur-Sylvester Road.

A science team assigned by the township's Smart Growth Committee presented recommendations to the town board on Jan. 18. On Feb. 16, the Sylvester Town Board agreed to amend the local livestock ordinance to include a license requirement for new or expanding farms set to exceed 500 cows. The moratorium in Sylvester ends March 31.

"I'm extremely disappointed as a resident of this county and as a biologist," Bethany Stom, a member of the Sylvester Science Committee, said of the committe's decision. "I think the more information this county, this committee has, the better choices can be made. We spread a lot of things on very susceptible ground."

Stom also noted Olson's remarks on the duty of the committee to ensure best practices for protecting water.

"I think it's up to us to protect our groundwater, our surface water and our air," Olson said. "That's why we're here; that's our job."

Vice Chair Russ Torkelson did not agree with a moratorium on the basis that it would limit farmers. Torkelson compared the new Pinnacle Dairy to a proposed infant formula plant that has plans to build in Monroe which "we love" and would ship products to China, where the company is based, compared to a family of farmers coming from "the foreign country of Nebraska to continue our heritage."

Fellow committee member Kristi Leonard questioned whether local municipalities should be imposing moratoriums. Leonard said some proposals "are too heavy-handed" and impractical. She said a short-term break might be the best option to keep emotions under control.

Green County Conserva-tionist Todd Jenson agreed regarding the restrictions.

"The Sylvester setbacks are crazy," Jenson said. "They're pretty anti-farming."

But Green County Supervisor Betty Grotophorst said the committee had been disappointing to watch. During public comment, she told committee members they seemed uninformed on the topic, and that had contributed to their decision.

"It's a moratorium, it is a deep breath," Grotophorst said. "It is not anti-farming. Green County has the opportunity to tell the rest of the people of Wisconsin that we care about the health and safety of our farmland."

T.J. Tuls, manager of Rock Prairie Farm east of Janesville, spoke during public comment as well. His father, Todd Tuls, owns Rock Prairie and is the applicant for the currently debated Pinnacle Dairy in Sylvester Township. He said the addition of their large-scale farm, a 5,000-cow dairy, has benefited their smaller neighbors, citing friends who have borrowed efficient equipment and the addition of manure to neighboring crops.

Jen Riemer, who would be across the highway from the proposed Pinnacle Dairy, also served on the Sylvester Science Committee. In her remarks to the Land and Conservation Committee, Riemer mentioned a fellow neighbor who will be "cast in the shadow of Pinnacle" and said small farms will end with the addition of large-scale dairy.

"The casualty of CAFOs will be family farmers," Riemer said. "Potentially our water and our air as well."