As an anecdotal aside, Wisconsin has notoriously had higher standards when it comes to care and quality of animal byproducts – in particular when it comes to dairy farming. Wisconsin has been fairly resistant to the animal feedlot / massive factory farming movement and has done so by controlling things like antibiotic use, square footage available per animal, etc. That’s why this news from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is especially shocking.
Pursuant to a statute allowing local Wisconsin governments to create water quality standards and regulations that are more strict than existing state law, Bayfield County passed a one year moratorium in February 2015 on large scale, factory farms to block an Iowa based company from creating a 24,000-26,000 head hog farm (a controlled animal feeding operation, or “CAFO”). At the expiration of the moratorium, Bayfield County then passed two ordinances in February 2016 that gave the County massive oversight of farm operations and water pollution.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources blocked these ordinances, essentially siting that they were not tailored enough to the actual water pollution problems in the watersheds of the County.
Saratoga, WI is appealing a trial court decision that will allow the construction and operation of a 5,300 cow dairy farm. Notice of appeal was filed Monday, June 15 in Wood County, Wisconsin.
The 7,000 acre farm is slated to offer many new jobs to Central Wisconsin. The Wysocki Family of Companies also promises to use the 7,000 acres to allow for grazing, as well as growth for potatoes and other vegetables. Wysocki plans to use manure produced by the 5,300 cattle as nutrients for the potato and vegetable soil crop.
As with any large scale factory farm, the risk of run-off pollution is ever-present with large scale land application of manure. Soil density, precipitation, temperature, and amount of pollutants (such as nitrogen and phosphorous) require a delicate balance, and it is notoriously difficult to environmentally enforce or control such methods.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is still reviewing the environmental impact of the agricultural pollutant permit applications.
Modern methods of livestock care focus on the use of antibiotics – it fattens livestock up fast and, when used as non-therapeutic supplement, it prevents the spread of infectious viruses among cattle. Overcrowding of livestock in factory farm settings creates a huge risk of viruses, infections, and diseases among the animals that can spread fast. Antibiotics, when used supplementary in animal feed, prevent this and allow for more crowded quarters and ultimately a higher yield in animal byproducts.
This use of antibiotics in this manner is detrimental to human health and medical science. When overexposed to antibiotics through ingestion of animal byproducts, people develop a resistance to antibiotics, rendering them ineffective to treat common ailments – the flu, injury infections,etc. The CDC issued a threat report at the end of 2013 that found that 23,000 people in the United States die annually from antibiotic resistance – deaths that should have been avoided with effective antibiotic treatment. The CDC warns that the continued use of antibiotics in animal feed creates a risk of death for simple infections such as strep throat.
Now, for the first time in over 35 years, the FDA is seeing some control over the practice of feeding antibiotics to livestock through a new voluntary program. While the FDA is not directly regulating the practice, they have issued guidance documents and recommendations (see #209, #213). THe FDA asks veterinary antibiotic manufacturers to alter the drug labels to no longer provide antibiotics over-the-counter, thus rendering the drugs unavailable for use in animal feed.
On March 26, 2014 the FDA published a list of 25 companies that agreed in writing to no voluntarily comply and no longer allow their antibiotics to be sold over-the-counter.
For more information, see this article.