By Amy and Aaron Bishop
On February 16, the Fillmore County Planning Commission will consider whether or not to recommend doubling the number of animal units allowable per feedlot. Many rural residents are already plagued by water quality issues due to high nitrate concen-trations in our wells as was confirmed in a 2018 multi-year, statewide study.
Just a few of our questions are: How did we get to the point where we think this would be a wise decision in karst country? Have the County Planning Commission members sought guidance from the Soil and Water Conservation District, the Board of Water and Soil Resources, or state/regional karst hydrologists? Have our officials done their due diligence in becoming informed on the issue? Are they using the resources available to advise and inform these decisions? Namely, the expertise of those in the natural resources field. We certainly hope so. Like most of you, we don’t have the time or energy to attend all meetings at the county, township, or city level. I wish we could, to see that decisions are being made in ALL of our best interests. Instead, we participate as we’re able and trust that those elected to represent us see the big picture and recognize that the decisions they make on our behalf affect us all, and in particular, generations to come.
Doubling the allowable animal units would equate to 4,000 steers, 2,800 dairy cows, 222,000 turkeys, and 13,000 hogs in a confined location. Additional questions arise beyond whether this is good for our groundwater, our air quality, or our property values. Who is this good for? Is it good for the quality of life of the animals? The farmers? Their neighbors? Is it not possible to make a comfortable living raising the current number of allowable animals in confinement? Would raising the quantity make it a more or less sustainable endeavor? Would this proposed increase provide more jobs, more income, or more debt… and for whom? And who might this continued aggregation (push to get ever-larger), push out of agriculture entirely? Your friend? Your neighbor? You? It seems like there are better alternatives. We’re in favor of livestock on the land. But scale, husbandry, stewardship, and community (your part in it and the impacts upon it and our landscape), make all the difference.
We’re also all for freedom. Freedom of autonomy, freedom to grow a business, etc…but freedom isn’t boundless and that freedom ends where it negatively impacts your neighbors and the landscape that sustains us. Please don’t assume that someone else is acting in your best interests. Show up, get involved, speak up, express what’s important to you. Our elected officials need to hear from us, so write our county commissioners and/or show up on February 16 at 7 p.m.