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Sylvester livestock study takes first steps
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TOWN OF SYLVESTER - The Sylvester Township Large-Scale Livestock Study Committee is setting goals for itself as it works toward gathering information on the detrimental effects they say mega farms have on the environment and human health.

The six-member committee is in charge of researching scientific evidence on the potential effect of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, called CAFOs, on the area. Members' concerns of potential environmental and health risks come in response to the proposed 5,800-cow dairy called Pinnacle Farms planned on 130 acres of land along Sylvester-Decatur Road and County FF.

The Sylvester town board enacted a moratorium on large-scale livestock facilities that took effect Sept. 24. The moratorium is intended to allow the township time for further study into potential effects of the large dairy. Pinnacle Farms had submitted an application to build its facility but because it did not include complete information, it is now subject to the township moratorium and is on hold until Jan. 18.

The committee, comprised of farmers and students of conservation and agriculture, has until the Jan. 18 deadline to gather information and evidence outlining the effects on township land by farms of similar size. Their findings will be presented to the Township of Sylvester board.

Committee member Bethany Storm said it is vital to ensure everyone can understand their research.

"The main part of our job is to make this palatable to a large audience," Storm said.

The group discussed guiding principles Tuesday, including a rough mission statement to collect, analyze and interpret evidence to relay to the board, which would allow the township to make a decision based on its own interpretation, committee member and local farmer Jacob Marty said.

Along with the township's science team, the committee looks to cover all avenues in which township residents could be affected. The committee decided the main priorities are financial implications, complete knowledge of local and Department of Natural Resources rules on big farms and studies currently examining discrepancies among different areas dealing with similar problems. Looking into what best management practices would be recommended outside of the influence of the DNR is also a focal point.