RICHFIELD - Giant factory farms with thousands of cows are becoming more common in Wisconsin. However, neighbors are often worried about what the operation will do to the water, the air and their quality of life.
People just west of Waushara County voiced their concerns about a factory farm dairy proposal in Richfield near the intersection of Interstate 39 and State Highway 21 Monday night.
In a hot room in the Adams County Community Center, tempers flared as hundreds of people packed a state Department of Natural Resources public hearing on the proposed Richfield Dairy.
Many of those in the crowd wore t-shirts saying "No CAFO", which stands for Confined Animal Feeding Operation. It's the industry term for a factory farm.
The Richfield Dairy would be built in the field near Coloma and hold 4,300 cows with room to expand.
Most of the questions from the audience centered on what the dairy and all the manure would mean to water and air quality. Unlike some CAFO's, Richfield would not use a manure digester to create electricity. They would hold the manure in pits and then haul it to nearby fields.
"A lot of them will be running right down in front of my house to spread manure on the fields on 3rd and 4th avenue over there," Paul Powolish said, who lives near a farm. "I can't live under conditions like that,"
Powalish is the closest neighbor to the proposed dairy.
"I know what's coming, there's no two ways about it. I was born on the farm, I was raised on a farm and I know what's coming," he said.
Jim Ostrom is co-founder of Milk Source, the company that would own Richfield Dairy.
"What I find is there's a lot of initial fear and uncertainty," Ostrom said. "We're good neighbors, we're really good for the economy, we do a lot of business locally," he added.
Milk Source already milks more than 30,000 cows in a handful of dairies around the state. Ostrom says Richfield Dairy will cost $36 million to build and employ 40 people. He says environmentalists should think of them as part of the green economy because they buy their feed from local farmers.
"Instead of producing corn and shipping it down the Mississippi they're going to produce corn and ship it down the road. Instead of buying fertilizer from Florida they're going to buy fertilizer from us four miles up the road. It's really a win-win for the local economy," Ostrom said.
Powalish is looking at a different local impact saying "It totally ruins our life, that's what it's going to do,"
The DNR will be reviewing the final permits this summer.
As for the concerns of residents, the DNR has reviewed the water and air quality issues.
The department says the smell is not a valid reason for rejecting the permits.
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