Committee takes no action on waste law
The Environmental Resources Committee on Thursday failed to take action on an animal waste ordinance being unable to figure out to how to obtain further input from dairy farmers on the proposal.
The proposed ordinance, sent back to committee on March 24 on a 20-17 vote of the county board, aligns current county law with state performance standards and, controversially, includes a prohibition to place 175 square feet of unconfined, stacked manure (about how much would fit in a pick-up truck) within 300 feet of a waterway.
Committee members praised land and water director Paul Daigle and other Conservation, Planning and Zoning Department staff for “going above and beyond” in a public engagement plan to get county farmers to react to the proposed ordinance, but agreed that few farmers in the county have any awareness that the proposal was put before the county board.
“You did an exceptional job,” said committee member Randy Fifrick, Kronenwetter. “Except for going door to door, I don’t think is anything more we can do.”
Daigle said the ordinance proposal was covered in the press, explained at informational meetings and in phone calls to interested farmers, talked about on social media and open to public comment at a legally posted public hearing.
Committee chairman Jacob Langenhahn, town of Marathon, suggested sending all affected farmers a postcard telling them about the ordinance and asking them to attend another public hearing.
Daigle said, however, it could cost up to $3 a piece to mail out such a post card and with 4,500 farmers in the county, the cost of the mailing could exceed $13,000, which is far beyond what the county can afford.
“The things we did tried to be a little more budget friendly,” he said.
Committee member Sara Guild said she couldn’t see how the committee could hold a new public hearing on the ordinance during the COVID-19 pandemic and suggested posting a video on a website that farmers could watch and learn about the proposed ordinance.
One committee member said that it wasn’t the county’s responsibility to find a better way to engage the farm community on a proposed ordinance, but that farmers needed to pay more attention to legislation that affects their livelihood.
“We live in a participatory democracy,” said committee member Jim Bove, Auburndale. “Ignorance is no excuse. It’s every person’s responsibility to know what is going on.”