By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Sylvester sits on livestock ordinance
Placeholder Image
TOWN OF SYLVESTER - Township officials in Sylvester may have to extend the moratorium on large-scale dairy facilities for a second time to deal with a looming review from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

The township board held its monthly meeting Wednesday with half a dozen residents in attendance. The intent was to discuss a DATCP review of the Licensing Livestock Facilities and Adopting Additional Standards Ordinance, which outlines requirements for new large-scale dairy facilities within the area. Also referred to as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, the facilities are designated by the state as farms that exceed more than 1,000 animal units. The law was drafted during a six-month moratorium, a short-term hiatus in which no new facilities can be built on the grounds of studying the impact of big dairy farms. If DATCP found any facet of the ordinance to be unlawful, it would require the township to alter the ordinance.

Originally, Sylvester officials thought they were required to simply submit the drafted ordinance to DATCP. However, DATCP officials told Sylvester township in February that the department and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources had to review the law and its subsequent application. Board members intended to vote on the ordinance during their Feb. 15 meeting but instead extended the moratorium by three months from its end date of March 23. If the ordinance is not approved by the board before the moratorium expires, it fails.

Town board members were unable to approve of any changes requested by DATCP however, for one reason: They had not received results for the third month of the moratorium extension, though DATCP has been in contact with the township. Sylvester officials and their lawyer had to send the reviewers additional information for a third time in three months.

Board Chairwoman Anna Anderson said the requests began with DATCP asking for science committee information to be included within the language of the ordinance as justification for strict guidelines. The latest request required that the township include scientific information in each part of the license application as justification for each request.

"The application has sections, and so for each section, (DATCP) want a specific piece from the science date to go into each section the facts apply to," Anderson said.

A township moratorium was put in place in September after an application was submitted to build a 5,800-cow farm named Pinnacle Dairy along County FF and Decatur-Sylvester Road. Todd Tuls, who owns an similar farm east of Janesville, applied to construct the CAFO over 127 acres of land. Residents, some who formed the Green County Defending our Farmland organization, worked with a lawyer to propose the moratorium to allow time to further study the effect a dairy farm of the proposed magnitude could have on the groundwater. Tuls' lawyers contend the restrictions would not apply to their proposed dairy farm.

During the moratorium, a science team made up of local biologists, hydrogeologists, ecologists and others with degrees in a field of science, recommended the ordinance requirements, which outline a number of requests be met in order to assure a safe environment for the community's water and air quality. A large concern is the amount of manure which will be spread over Pinnacle Dairy farmland as well as neighboring farms in the area and its ability to contaminate the water supply. The science committee noted that Sylvester township is vulnerable to groundwater contamination. Evaluation of a groundwater contamination susceptibility map noted that roughly 85 percent of Green County water is susceptible while 75 percent of sections "demonstrate significant risk" for contamination, according to committee members.

The livestock ordinance license application calls for soil sampling of the proposed area to be conducted to provide a baseline and that no manure can be applied to land beyond 80 percent of its nutrient load capacity. Soil samples have to be taken again within four years of the first applied manure. No hoses or pipes to transport manure will be allowed in or across the township rights-of-way. The Town of Sylvester is also required to notify adjacent landowners of any large-scale dairy applications and host a public hearing to gain input from residents and the applicant.

Sylvester scheduled the next town board meeting for June 20. The three-month extension on the township moratorium will expire June 23, though Anderson said previously that the moratorium could be drawn out for up to six months.