Amy Middleton posted the following concerns in a letter to the Polk County Environmental Committee:
May 13, 2020
To: Polk County – Environmental Services Committee Vince Netherland – Polk County Administrator Bob Kazmierski – Environmental Services Division Director
From: Amy Middleton – Polk County Supervisor District 10
Re: Polk County Large-Scale Livestock Facility Study Group Report
Please find below my comments on the Polk County Large-Scale Livestock Facility Study Group Report. (Report). Special thanks to the study group for their ongoing work on this important health and economic issue. I appreciate having this first version report released in a timely way on April 13, 2020.
At the same time, this version of the report does not meet the requirements of Sections IV and VII as stated in Resolution 33-19 the Polk County Temporary Moratorium on Livestock Facilities.
I look forward to working with supervisors and staff to finish the job so that supervisors have the information and analysis needed to protect the health and property values of our citizens.
While local governments such as Polk County cannot ban Large-Scale Livestock Facilities, we can implement an operational ordinance, such as the Town of Eureka has, that ensures these factories will not:
• Damage public health
• Pollute water & air
• Destroy property values

However, as hog factory developers attempt to buy prime farmland in Polk County, this report barely scratches the surface on the wide range of public health and economic issues surrounding the swine industry. More focus is needed on the county’s vibrant livestock production and processing industry and the common sense solutions being explored and implemented by towns. Here are a few examples:

Globally: African Swine Fever virus is killing hundreds of millions of hogs and producers have no way to dispose of the carcasses without spreading the virus and polluting water.

Nationally: Covid-19 infection rates among workers at giant corporate hog processers mean factory farms like those proposed for Polk County will have to slaughter and dispose of up to 1.5 million animals.

Polk County: Corporate hog farms directly threaten our county’s small livestock producers and family-owned meat processors. The Town of Eureka passed a comprehensive operations ordinance in January 2020 and the report does not even mention it.

Specifically, we need more information in the following three areas: I. Health Impacts of Covid-19 & African Swine Fever Virus
II. Economic Impact on Existing Livestock Industry & Property Values
III. Laws & Enforcement, Town of Eureka Ordinance
I. Health Impacts of Covid-19 & African Swine Fever Virus

Recommendation – Review Need for Mortality Plans. There is a lack of regulation in place to address human or hog pandemics. In particular, no mortality plans are required when factory farms need to depopulate tens of thousands of hogs that they can’t ship to market.
Background for Recommendation
Resolution 33-19 clearly states in Section IV, paragraph 1, that the moratorium’s purpose is to analyze “the potential impacts of Livestock Facilities in Polk County.” In addition, the county’s authority, as granted under Wis. Statute 59.02(2), over the “the subject matter of health” is cited on line 8 and reiterated on line 11 as authority granted under Wis. Statute 59.69.
The report needs to makes reference to the major public health concerns now burning through the hog factory industry:
A. Covid-19 Infections
B. African Swine Fever

A. Covid-19
Huge corporate-owned hog processors across the nation and Wisconsin are seeing Covid-19 infection rates among workers as high as 25%. These high rates have forced more than 100 plants to close, according to a May 8, 2020 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report.
The giant Chinese-owned Smithfield hog processing plant in Sioux Falls, SD was one of the first to close. There are 850 infections tied to the plant. According to an October 2, 2019 interview with hog factory developer, Jeff Sauer by the Town of Laketown Moratorium on Livestock Facility Licensing Committee, this is the plant driving investors to build a complex of hog farrowing and finishing plants in Polk and Burnett counties. While Sauer’s investors hope to operate the plants, Smithfield would own the sows and lease them to the operators.

The closure of all these processors means that factory farms have nowhere to ship their animals. In fact, National Pork Producers Council president, Howard Roth said on April 29, 2020 that “millions of pigs can’t enter the food chain” and will have to be killed and disposed of. The Brazilian-owned JBS plant in Worthington, MN reopened on April 29 and is euthanizing, not processing, up to 13,000 hogs a day and the “carcasses will be rendered, sent to landfills, composted or buried.”

Without effective, enforceable mortality plans, this highly concentrated production system will leave Polk County vulnerable when the hog factories have to dispose of tens of thousands of hogs due to future pandemic shutdowns.

While the US Department of Agriculture has recommended procedures for mass depopulation, it is very challenging and presents many disposal issues.

African Swine Fever Virus
Millions of hogs have died or been killed globally due to African Swine Fever (ASF), or commonly called, hog Ebola. Experts predict 25 percent of the global herd will perish. The disease is 100% fatal and the pathogen is especially hardy. Asian countries such as China, Vietnam and Korea have been hit hard – Aporkalypse Now. Germany is building a wall along its Polish front to stop the invasion.
In response, the USDA held simulated exercises with 14 states in September 2019 to test our nation’s ability to control an outbreak. While the exercises themselves were covered by industry press, there has been almost no coverage of the potential problems identified. Most of the focus is on how much tax payers will have to reimburse these giant corporations for the dead animals.
While Wisconsin was not one of the 14 states that did simulations, DATCP staff did observe the Minnesota exercise. In addition, DATCP has published a 1-1/2 page African Swine fever factsheet.
October 2019 interviews with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection’s Rebecca Slater, Emergency Response Coordinator and Dr. Julie McGwin, Veterinarian Specialist, identified multiple issues, including:
1.) In the event of an outbreak, thousands of trucks hauling up to a million hogs would be required to comply with a stop movement order for up to 72 hours. Standstills such as this are very hard to enforce. After 72 hours the animals – many of them weanlings – start to die.
2.) A 10km quarantine ring would be put around any infected factory, heavily impacting locals.
3.) Procedures for handling effluent from the washing of infected trucks and factories are not clear.
4.) Procedures for killing tens of thousands of hogs in a factory are not clear.
5.) Composting and incineration are the recommended disposal techniques for carcasses once herds are killed. Wisconsin lacks sufficient capacity for either method. In addition, the robust pathogen, types of infected materials (metal cages, feeds, etc.) and Polk County’s high water table make the efficacy of composting questionable. Impact of compost leachate on ground water is unclear. Landfills did not want avian flu carcasses and concerns about taking so many dead hogs are expected to be even higher.
6.) USDA’s Disease Response Strategy – African Swine Fever raises many issues about disposal, including this quote from page 15:
“Due to the persistent nature of ASFV (African Swine Fever Virus), options for disposal are limited. For example, composting may not be feasible when there are large amounts of biomass; resources for rendering are currently limited. Burial poses significant challenges with environmental contamination and the ability of the ASFV to persist in the environment. Each option has its own environmental, logistical, and managerial challenges. APHIS and State officials and subject matter experts will collaborate to determine best approaches. ”

II. Economic Impact on Existing Livestock Industry & Property Values

Recommendation – Assess impact of swine factories on existing Polk County plans related to economic development.
Background for Recommendation
Line 23 of Resolution 33-19 clearly states that one of the county’s Comprehensive Plan goals for agriculture is to “make Polk County self-sufficient.” In addition, Section IV, paragraph 3 of Resolution 33-19 specifically says that the purpose of the ordinance is to review the Comprehensive Plan “or other Polk County plans or policies” that might need modification.
However, the report makes no reference to any of the county’s existing plans. Most importantly, there is no look at how the swine industry will impact two challenges:
A. Maintaining Existing Livestock Producers & Processors
B. Protecting Property Values

A. Maintaining Existing Livestock Producers & Processors
The report should document impacts the corporate livestock industry may have on the county’s existing livestock producers and meat processors. Hundreds of small farms produce high quality protein right here. Clear Lake, Amery, St. Croix Falls, Luck and Frederic all have processors. Input from both of these types of business, as well as hog farm developer Jeffery Sauer from Cumberland LLC, should be included.
More information on the many alternatives to large corporate factory farm is also needed. Our region is a leader in this field. Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service’s annual conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin attracts thousands of participants. Both the University of Wisconsin and Minnesota have a range of programs. A bit farther afield is John Ikerd, from the University of Missouri. Ikerd has an easily accessible collection of papers on how agriculture can help local communities thrive and is available for interview.
Wisconsin Farmers’ Union made several attempts to showcase the thriving producer community in Polk County for staff and supervisors. They are still open to providing information to the study process.
B. Protecting Property Values
The financial health of county government and our citizens is based in large part on property values. The report needs to include information on how investors’ plans to build a swine factory industry here will impact property values. We do know that attempts by hog factory developers in the towns of Laketown and Sterling to buy property caused immediate concerns about property values and motivated people to list their homes.
These concerns are not unfounded. These factories bring a range of negative impacts to communities, including unregulated air and noise pollution. Ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, endotoxins, viruses and bacteria from these factories are absorbed by dust particles and can stay airborne for long periods, traveling several miles. Research from North Carolina, one of the states most impacted by the swine factory farms, shows increased rates of infant deaths and deaths from to anemia, kidney disease, tuberculosis, and septicemia in nearby communities.
In one local example, Jeffery Sauer told Laketown citizens that his planned 26,000 hog facility would be ventilated by an estimated one hundred 6-foot exhaust fans running all day, every day.
III. Laws & Enforcement, Town of Eureka Ordinance
Recommendation – Meet requirements of Resolution 33-19 Section IV, paragraph 5. Include a discussion of:
A. Laws, Regulation & Rules Governing Large Livestock Facilities
B. Enforcement at Large Livestock Facilities
C. Town of Eureka Concentrated Animal feeding Operations Ordinance

Section IV, paragraph 5 of Resolution 33-19 plainly states that the purpose of the moratorium is to allow “time to ensure all State of Wisconsin Statutes, Administrative Codes and other applicable laws and regulations are accounted for in any Polk County regulatory structure.”

This part of the study process is especially important because the swine factory developers claim that laws and enforcement are already in place to safely regulate their industry. County supervisors require a complete understanding of the laws that govern this industry as they make decisions that will impact the health and economy of our people for decades to come.
In order to fill this need, the report should include a chart that lays out the federal and state statutes and regulations which govern large livestock facilities. Equally important, would be documentation of any regulatory holes and shortages in in enforcement. Finally, a careful look is needed at the Town of Eureka’s Concentrated Animal feeding Operations Ordinance.

A. Laws, Regulation & Rules Governing Large Livestock Facilities

The next version of this report should include a coherent summary of the laws, regulations and rules that govern swine factories. A concise four page draft presented at the December 18, 2019 meeting of the Town of Laketown Moratorium on Livestock Facility Licensing Committee is available to the public. It could serve as an excellent starting point. (See Appendix B.)
A complete accounting of the gaps in current federal, state and local laws is also needed, including but not limited to:
1. Lack of air pollution regulation under the federal Clean Air Act or complete draft models for ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and particulate matter pollution from swine plants.
2. Exemption of animal factories in 2019 from reporting requirements under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
3. No regulations for the thousands of corpses and placenta produced at these plants.
4. No requirement for mortality plans.
5. Need for fact-based setbacks and lack of statutory authority for $1,000 limit on application fees and a prohibition on performance bonds under Wisconsin’s Large Livestock Siting law Wisconsin Statute 93.90.
6. Issues hindering Wisconsin’s manure management rules to stop water pollution.
7. Need for High Capacity Well regulations to protect surrounding wells, rivers and lakes.
B. Enforcement at Large Livestock Facilities

Uneven enforcement of large livestock facilities under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) also needs documentation in the report. Passed in 1972 under President Nixon, the CWA requires plants to get a permit for water pollution. While it is a federal law, authority for implementation and enforcement is granted to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Under the CWA, DNR is required to ensure that Wisconsin’s approximately 318 large livestock farms, known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), are complying with the terms of their permits.

These 5-year permits place limits on the type and concentration of water pollutants that may be discharged, require ongoing self-monitoring and reporting and establish requirements for manure collection and land application procedures.
The DNR is struggling to permit, monitor and take enforcement actions of these plants. A 2016 review by the state’s Legislative Audit Bureau found significant problems with the program’s ability to keep up with its workload. As of May 11, 2020, 83 (26%) of the state’s 318 CAFOs are operating under expired permits. There are five CAFOs in Polk County. One is operating under an expired permit.

No case better illustrates enforcement problems at CAFOs than ongoing problems at the Emerald Sky Dairy. Located near Baldwin in St. Croix County, Emerald Sky has had five known manure violations in three years. The worst was a 2017 spill of 275,000 gallons that resulted in only an $80,000 fine. Things are so bad that the St. Croix County Development Corporation sent a letter to the DNR on February 20, 2020 demanding “full and quick enforcement of manure application rules and statutes for CAFO’s located in St. Croix County.”

There may soon be even less enforcement. A March 26, 2020 EPA Memorandum unveiled a “temporary” enforcement discretion policy which permits normally-regulated US facilities to ignore current environmental standards during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no end date to the policy and it does not even reserve the right to act in the case of an imminent public health threat.

C. Town of Eureka Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) Ordinance

As mentioned in my overview, the Town of Eureka passed a comprehensive operations ordinance in January 2020. That ordinance is built on one of the three Wisconsin statues that we could use to develop a countywide ordinance. It deserves careful consideration

Like the Town of Osceola that I represent, Eureka adopted county zoning with the idea that the county would be a valuable resource as new development issues arise. Instead, Eureka and the un-zoned towns of Laketown and Sterling – the three towns most imminently threatened by investors looking to build new hog factories – are each having to reinvent the wheel themselves.

Our towns and the public are counting on the county to do the work needed to provide a thorough study of the large livestock issue. I look forward to being part of that process.

Amy Middleton – Polk County Supervisor District 10 Comments on Polk County Large-Scale Livestock Facility Study Group Report Appendix A – List of Cited Sources

Polk County – Large-Scale Livestock Facility Study Group Report.

Polk County – Temporary Moratorium on Livestock Facilities.

KCCI – 1.5 Million Hogs Possibly be Slaughtered

Town of Eureka – CAFO Operations Permit Ordinance
1.) Health Impacts of Covid-19 Infections and African Swine Fever
Covid -19
1. 25% infection rates

2. CDC report

3. Argus Leader – Smithfield closes

4. Argus Leader – Smithfield testing paid for by state taxpayers

5. Jeff Sauer Interview – Meeting starts 7 minutes into recording

6. National Pork Producers Council

7. JBS Press Release – Slaughter 13,000 hogs a day See April 29, 2020 Press Release

8. Aberdeen News – Highly concentrated industry

9. USDA – Mass Depopulation and Euthanasia: Swine Euthanasia al_health%2Femergency_management%2Fdownloads%2Fed_materials%2Fmde_swine_presentation.

African Swine Fever

10. Financial Times

11. Economist – African Swine Fever

12. Europe – Germany Builds a Wall

13. USDA Factsheet on AFS


15. DATCP African Swine Fever Factsheet

16. Des Moines Register – Landfills

17. USDA – African Swine Fever

2.) Economic Impact on County Livestock Industry & Property Values
Maintaining Existing Livestock Producers & Processors
18. Open Markets Institute – Restructuring America’s Meat Industry

19. Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education

20. University of Wisconsin

21. University of Minnesota

22. John Ikerd – University of Missouri collection of papers

Property Values

23. Mortality & Health Outcomes North Carolina Communities Near Hog Factories

3.) Laws & Enforcement, Town of Eureka Ordinance


Environmental Pollution Agency – National Emissions Monitoring

Environmental Pollution Agency – Exemption for Air Emissions Reporting under EPCRA

Wisconsin Large Livestock Siting Statute 93.90

Wisconsin DNR – Failure of Wisconsin’s manure management rules to stop water pollution

Wisconsin DNR – Failure of High Capacity Well regulations to protect surrounding waters


Environmental Pollution Agency – Clean Water Act
Wisconsin DNR – Wisconsin CAFO Permits – Current vs expired

Wisconsin DNR – Nutrient Management Planning

Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau – Wastewater Permitting & Enforcement

St. Croix County Development Corporation – Letter to DNR on Emerald Sky dairy

Environmental Pollution Agency – March 26, 2020 Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program

Town of Eureka Ordinance

Town of Eureka – CAFO Operations Ordinance
Town of Eureka – CAFO Operations Ordinance Appendix A

Amy Middleton – Polk County Supervisor District 10 Comments on Polk County Large-Scale Livestock Facility Study Group Report Appendix B. DRAFT Overview of CAFO Laws & Regulations
US Federal Type of Regulation Regulating Agency Law or Regulation
Clean Water Act – 1972 Water pollution permits for manure. Implementation and
enforcement authority delegated to the DNR.
Clean Air Act – 1990 Criteria pollutants – carbon monoxide, lead, Implementation and ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide, enforcement authority delegated particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide. Not to the DNR. currently required for CAFOs.
Emergency Planning & Chemicals released to the air, land or water. Implementation and Community Right-to-Know Act Not currently required for CAFOs. enforcement authority delegated
1986 to the DNR.
Air Pollution Models – 2007 Ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, particulates and US EPA volatile organic compounds. Not currently required for CAFOs.

Wisconsin State Law or Regulation
Type of Regulation Regulating Agency
Runoff Management Rules Manure and fertilizer. DNR
Local Regulation of Livestock Local government may exceed state standards DNR or DATCP Law (92.15) if need to protect water quality. May require review by DNR or DACTP.
Air Toxics Rule Regulation (NR Not currently regulated. Potentially hydrogen DNR
445) sulfide & ammonia.
High Capacity Wells (NR812) Required when pumping more than 70 gallons DNR per minute of water.
Livestock Siting & Expansion Local governments can adopt authority for DATCP Law (93.90) siting. No authority in Laketown because
neither Laketown nor Polk County has adopted.
Livestock Facility Siting Rule Setbacks, air pollution, nutrient and runoff DATCP
(ACTP 51) management, and waste storage.

Polk County Regulation Type of Regulation Regulating Agency
Comprehensive Land Use CAFOs currently allowed in all agricultural Polk County Zoning
Ordinance zones. Laketown is not zoned.
Shoreland Protection Zoning Need more information Polk County Zoning
Manure & Water Quality Manure managed under NRCS cost share. Polk County Land & Water Management Ordinance
Storm Water Management & Construction plans reviewed for water & Polk County Land & Water
Erosion Control Ordinance erosion

Laketown Regulation Type of Regulation Regulating Agency
Comprehensive Plan Need more information Laketown
Large Scale Commercial Activity Need more information Laketown