Crawford Stewardship Project works to protect the environment of Crawford County and neighboring regions from threats of polluting and extractive industries, to promote sustainable land use, environmental justice, and local control of natural resources

Crawford Stewardship Project is a nonprofit organization.
Donations are tax deductible.

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Crawford Stewardship Project
P.O. Box 284
Gays Mills, WI 54631


Crawford Stewardship Project is grateful for the generous support of RESIST, Inc. RESIST funds and supports grassroots groups organizing on the frontlines of the peace, economic, social, and environmental justice movements.

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” ~Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

"CAFOs are only profitable because so much of the cost and damage is externalized onto the environment, neighbors and wildlife. The monitoring, supervision, clean-up, restitution, fines are not happening, thus the true cost of CAFOs never find the way onto the balance books." Talking point from the CAFO Conference.

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
~Aldo Leopold, 1948. A Sand County Almanac.


On December 1 concerned Wisconsin residents peacefully gathered in support of family farmers and in protest against factory farms at the Dairy Business Association's (DBA) conference in downtown Madison. Most demonstrators hailed from Vernon County and Crawford County, with additional participants from the Madison Area. The DBA's stated mission is to promote the growth and success of all dairy farms in the state by fostering a positive business and political environment. Demonstrators argued that the organization actually works for the aggressive expansion of factory farming in Wisconsin, to the detriment of small and medium-scale family farmers, rural communities and environmental health.

Of the 13,000 dairy farms in the state, approximately 150 are Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). A dairy CAFO has at least 700 cows. By far the largest CAFO in the state is the controversial Rosendale Dairy in Fond du Lac County. It is currently seeking approval from the Department of Natural Resources to expand its operation to over 8,000 head.

The conference agenda included both an appearance by DNR Secretary Matt Frank and a session dedicated to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between DBA, DNR and Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). A component of the MOU is the creation of a publicly-funded ombudsman to facilitate and shorten the permitting process for investors seeking to site CAFOs in Wisconsin. The MOU would streamline the clean water discharge permit process for CAFOs, creating a general permit for CAFOs in Wisconsin.

A CAFO general permit combined with the Livestock Siting Law severely limits local control on how communities can effectively respond to the establishment of large-scale animal confinement farms in the state. Jim Goodman, a farmer who operates on the border of Sauk County and Vernon County stated, "The DNR should not be making agreements or compromises on environmental protection. It's easy to issue permits; what the public needs is enforcement of high permit standards."

Matt Urch of Vernon County elaborated on the influence of DBA on state policies, "The DBA is working to make sure that Wisconsin opens its doors to California-style megadairies, even those proposed by absentee investors. If factory farms were the boon to rural communities like the DBA says they are, people would be fighting to bring them in, instead of struggling to keep them out. Our elected officials and the appointed heads of DNR and DATCP need to do what's best for the majority of family farmers and rural neighbors and stop catering to a few factory farm operators."Vernon County's Susan Erlandson said, "I'm here today because families and consumers have a right to know that the DBA is encouraging large factory farms in Wisconsin. There is a lot at stake in terms of the environment and the public's health and safety. It's been proven that CAFOs are a threat to water quality with their large manure lagoons and systematic use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics. The DBA promotes questionable practices in agriculture." The dependence of factory farms on high capacity wells and risks to good air quality were also cited by demonstrators as reasons to oppose policies and subsidies that promote CAFOs.

Edie Ehlert of Crawford County is very concerned about a hog CAFO that has been over the 1000 animal unit CAFO limit without a DNR permit for as much as two years. "The DNR asked us in our rural community, 'What is the environmental harm?' Without monitoring, we can't know. All the DNR has done is send a warning letter and a letter of noncompliance to Roth Feeder Pigs, Inc. Regulation without enforcement isn't good policy."

Becky Otte, who is employed on a small organic farm near Stoughton, explained that she attended the demonstration, " raise awareness of how much small farmers mean to Wisconsin. It is more beneficial to support family farms and connections to food and community as opposed to CAFOs. When you put together poor environmental stewardship and social costs of CAFOs, consumers pay for it in the future. Our children pay the costs."

"I think there are positives that are going on in agriculture, like grass-based farming, and we see examples all over the state," shared Dan Peper of Vernon County. "The real issues are not all about size. However, a CAFO that needs a massive manure lagoon just can't be a good example of what's new and right in farming."

"It is sad that the DBA has such a powerful influence on state government agencies. The DNR has never denied approval of a factory farm permit. Many people believe that an agricultural system with a foundation in small-scale farms is the future of farming in Wisconsin. The DBA represents the dinosaurs of agriculture. We are in a serious struggle for the future of farming," stated John Peck of Family Farm Defenders.

Edie Ehlert

Crawford Stewardship Project Coordinator