Bayfield County Passes Moratorium On Large-Scale Farms

Prohibition May Or May Not Apply To Proposed Hog Farm Near Lake Superior

Danielle Kaeding/WPR

The Bayfield County Board passed a one-year moratorium on large-scale farms on Wednesday night, as an Iowa outfit looks to build a hog farm with around 24,000 animals there.

Officers turned people away as a crowd of around 200 people lined the walls of the Bayfield County board room. They spoke for and against the moratorium, a measure that was proposed after Iowa-based Reicks View Farms announced its plans to build a large-scale hog farm eight miles from Lake Superior.

Many speakers pleaded for more time to study the risks of large farms.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“We need a surveillance system,” said Jim Zorn, who lives a half-mile from where Reicks would build. “We need baseline data. We need to know where that water will go. We need to have our wells tested. We need to have our protocols set up — not just for sulfates, but for hormones and pharmaceuticals.”

Zorn said the issue isn’t whether people are for or against farming. However, several farmers expressed frustration over comments from those who have no first-hand experience with farms and how they’re regulated.

Gretchen Morris was removed from the meeting after protesting the end of a public commenting period. Danielle Kaeding

A preliminary design for Reicks View Farm’s proposed CAFO.

“I am most concerned about the impact a moratorium will have on other farms such as myself, even if I want to build a new barn to house my cattle,” said Jessica Pearce, who raises beef and hogs with her family.

Clay Burditt, a farmer from the village of Mason, said a moratorium sends a message to farmers that the county doesn’t want them to succeed.

“A farm has to grow and adapt to changing trends and new technologies. That is how we better ourselves and our animals,” said Burditt.

The board cut off public comment after an hour, drawing protest from Red Cliff tribal member Gretchen Morris.

“You’re violating our treaty rights — Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa 1854 treaty. We will not allow it,” shouted Morris as officers escorted her out of the meeting.

Board members asked questions of their legal counsel about the possibility of a lawsuit with the moratorium and whether Reicks has a legal right to build. Bayfield County Corporation Counsel Linda Coleman said those legal questions remain unclear.

“There’s no way anybody could get up here today and tell you they are or are not vested absolutely 100 percent,” said Coleman.

Bayfield attorney Glenn Stoddard spoke on behalf of around 3,000 people who signed a petition supporting a moratorium. Stoddard declared that it will end up in court either way.

“I’m telling you right now, when you can fill a room like this, and you’ve got tribes and people from a city like Ashland and other people who are concerned about it, you bet there’s going to be litigation,” said Stoddard.

Board members also asked questions of Reicks View Farms representatives about how farms are run and the risks involved. Reicks View Farms Swine Operations Director Gene Noem said they would be proud to operate in Bayfield County.

“We plan to continue to do livestock farming in the same safe, professional manner that we do now and that we do in the state of Iowa,” said Noem.

The moratorium passed by the board affects new farms of 1,000 animals or more and existing farms seeking to grow. The moratorium does not apply to farms that have a legal right to build. Bayfield County Board Member Bill Bussey said the distinction gives the county time to find out more.

“We’re basically deferring our decision on whether Reicks is grandfathered or not,” he said.

Noem declined to comment on the moratorium, saying Reicks would have to evaluate the decision. A county committee will now form to study the impact large-scale farms have on groundwater, surface water and air quality.

Related Stories