Dear Secretary Adam Payne,
First of all, I wish to congratulate you on your appointment by our Governor, Tony Evers. He must think highly of you to select you for such an important position. You are charged with a large task, to protect our water in Wisconsin. We all need clean water for health and survival. That is why there needs to be a shift from unsustainable industrial farming back to sustainable local family farms. Cheap meat means nothing if we are sick or dead. Feeding the world is just a buzz phrase for a select few that are making billions of dollars while harming thousands of rural Americans.
On January 12, 2023, the WDNR acknowledged receipt of a new final application from Cumberland LLC. Cumberland LLC is a 26,000 head hog CAFO proposed to site in Trade Lake. We are asking that you take immediate action and deny the application. We are not anti-agriculture, in fact some of us have grown up on farms and we are well aware that this is a fragile area with shallow ground water and a single aquifer that cannot handle a facility of that magnitude. We know the difference between sustainable and unsustainable agriculture. Few local sustainable family farms would be able to compete with an industrial livestock facility.
Cumberland’s proposed siting is in the St. Croix Watershed, in an area full of lakes and rivers. Many of our recreational lakes are drainage/seepage lakes and are on the 303(d) list of impaired waters. Lakeshore property owners have been working diligently for years with Lake Associations and in concert with the DNR to improve them–and we are finally seeing progress in surface water quality. Our rural economy is largely fueled by recreational revenue from the many lakes, rivers, wetlands, wildlife areas and the Wild and Scenic St. Croix River. Lake property brings in large amounts of tax revenue to Burnett County and the Town of Trade Lake. The proposed siting and spreading fields are all around these lakes and the Trade River which flows through the lakes and into the nationally protected St. Croix River.
Residents rely on private wells and the ground water here in Trade Lake. We know that nitrates cannot be boiled out of the water. It is science. Our wells have recently been tested and our water quality is good. The DNR is responsible to protect our water. An industrial livestock facility of that magnitude will destroy our ground water in a relatively short time. We have witnessed what CAFOs have done to the water in other areas not nearly as fragile as ours. We are asking that an Environmental Impact Statement/Study be performed by the DNR and we have submitted a petition to the EPA requesting the EIS to protect our most precious resource, our water which will in turn, protect the health of our community.
The Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin have expressed, in writing, their opposition to the Cumberland, LLC CAFO application and siting in the watershed to the St. Croix River. Cumberland threatens the rights guaranteed by treaty to the Indians to be able to rice, hunt and fish in the lakes and rivers of Wisconsin.
In addition, there is a joint clean water initiative between MN and WI and approved by the EPA, with a 25 year commitment that began in 2012 in regards to the TMDL in the St. Croix River Basin. Taxpayers in both states have funded this initiative for over a decade. To approve a CAFO application that could destroy years of collaborative efforts between the MPCA and the WDNR would be reckless and a disregard for taxpayer money.
Animal agriculture is a major driver of global warming and biodiversity loss. CAFOs destroy ecosystems and release huge quantities of harmful gases. Congress specifically exempted industrial livestock facilities from having to report emissions of deadly gases like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Emissions from CAFOs go unmonitored and unregulated and the public is unprotected from their harmful effects. This is not an accident. It is the design of a long and calculated campaign by Big Ag and their political enablers to keep industrial farming harms hidden from the public.
The loss of recreational revenue will be devastating to the community. The loss of property value tax revenue will also be huge. There will no doubt be negative impact to our sustainable family farmers. The health risks imposed by polluted ground water and harmful air emissions also have a cost attached. The Nationally protected St. Croix Scenic Riverway would be threatened. Some Trade Lake residents will be hurt financially, emotionally and physically. These are more than enough reasons to warrant the DNR to use their authority to protect our water and reject the Cumberland LLC application.