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Letter: Another version of family farms

Last week, Thomas Gillis of Roberts wrote telling us "nowhere is the environmental progress more apparent than on America's family farms." He said 99% of all Wisconsin farms are "family farmers."

Perhaps Gillis can explain what a "family farm" is to those of us living southeast New Richmond in the neighborhood of a proposed "family farm."

In December 2008, the owners of the Schottler Dairy near Somerset outlined their proposal to build a 3,800-cow dairy operation in the town of Erin Prairie. Considering there are housing developments nearby and a new high school and elementary school approximately three miles from the proposed site, that's a lot of cows and manure. The site sits in the Kinnickinnic River watershed.

One cow produces the equivalent amount of solid and liquid waste as 18 people. Therefore, 3,800 cows produce as much waste as the city of Eau Claire. Cities treat waste in sophisticated sewage treatment plants.

Most factory farms spread manure on fields as they did in the Middle Ages. Spreading liquid manure on frozen or snow-covered ground is illegal.

To store the waste during winter, factory farms must maintain lagoons capable of holding at least six months' of liquid manure. Lagoons can be the size of five or six football fields.

The Wisconsin DNR acknowledges factory farms will pollute and manure runoff will reach ground and surface waters. Raw manure is up to 160 times more toxic than raw municipal sewage.

Leaking lagoons release antibiotic residues and harmful bacteria that can leach into water supplies. Spills happen. In 2003, Jon De Farms, a CAFO near Baldwin, was fined $42,898 for past discharges of manure into tributaries of the Rush River.

Saying this is a "family farm" is like saying the Ford Motor Company is a family business. There is much to learn about factory farms and a variety of useful information can be found at www.cafoinfo.blogspot.com .