Civil servants struggle with CAFO’s mandate

Planning commissioners recommend 100 square mile area for industrial agriculture

Planning commissioners voted last week to recommend county commissioners set aside about 100 square miles near the border with Beaver County specifically to accommodate large confined animal feeding operations.

The area was chosen for its proximity to existing CAFOs already in place around Milford in neighboring southern Millard County.

The recommendation follows a workshop in December and comes at the request of the Utah Legislature and Senate Bill 130.

The bill passed in the 2021 legislative session – a direct reaction to the months-long local struggle against factory pig farming in 2019 and 2020 – requires most counties in Utah to designate an area to within their boundaries to accommodate CAFOs of all kinds without requiring zoning changes, but including benefits such as proximity to water, electricity and transportation infrastructure.

The area to be designated should also contain a mixture of private and public land.

Officials said the county could maintain its current CAFO ordinance as long as it designates an area by February 1.

If the commissioners fail to designate an appropriate area for CAFOs by then, the county’s current CAFO ordinance is overturned under the new law.

Adam Richins, the county planner, helped guide the public debate at the county planning meeting last Wednesday. He described the bill as a mandate and said he had never seen an industry benefit from such explicit privileges from the government.

“And we have until the end of this month to spend it,” Richins said. “I would also go so far as to say that no other company that I know of has the privilege of being in a position where everyone is obligated to welcome you and put you in a place that works for you, that it works or not for them. I’m a little biased on the nature of the way this has been handled because traditionally the county has been able to manage this at the legislative level (through the commissioners). The elected officials have been able to determine if a change had to be made or not. ”

In 2019, Millard County passed stricter rules governing the location of industrial pig production.

Numerous public meetings were held on both sides of the county.

Residents were generally in favor of stricter rules to protect public health, land values ​​and water resources. Opponents of the stricter ordinance cited property rights, the region’s historic agricultural patina and job creation.

A related voting initiative followed the passage of the stricter ordinance in 2020 and sought to completely ban pork CAFOs in the county. He failed by a slim margin.

It was under these conditions that a bill was first introduced in 2020 by the same Box Elder County State Senator Scott Sandall, who sponsored the latest version. SB106 was an earlier version of what would become SB130, but it failed to muster much support at first, eventually sent for interim study after this year’s session ended.

SB130 received much wider support among lawmakers the second time around.

Local planning commissioners, pressed to comply with the law, estimated that a dozen different areas within the county were suitable for CAFOs.

Richins said the law requires the county to designate an area of ​​”sufficient size”, although the law does not specify what constitutes “sufficient”.

Richins read the relevant parts of the legislation to members of the public in attendance, including a part that dictates that counties must locate CAFO areas a “reasonable” distance from transportation, electricity and water networks, which, according to Richins, also tend to be where people live. the count.

“They need to be located where they have reasonable access to it,” he said.

A 72 square mile area along the border with Juab County was removed early when planning commissioners began deliberating due to its proximity to the Topaz burial camp site.

Jane Beckwith, chair of the Topaz Museum board, spoke out against designating the area for CAFOs in a public hearing because it appeared to be about 3 miles from the Topaz site.

“I think the prevailing winds would cause a lot of consternation to the Japanese-American community which regards this land as a very important part of its history,” she told planning commissioners.

The other possible locations are essentially parallel to State Route 257, starting a few miles southwest of the Clear Lake Waterfowl Management Area and ending along the Beaver County line.

Jim Kaufman, a cattle rancher who lives nearby and owns hundreds of acres of property in the area, said he was against designating any property around him for CAFOs. He said he was already forced to close his windows during the summer due to the stench of garbage generated by industrial hog operations in Beaver County.

“With these last hog farms that came in, they kept saying we were 7 miles as the crow flies. The smell is bad. We had properties all around the last pig farm on the road to Antelope Point on the Mineral Mountains, ”he said. “The value of the land decreases quite quickly when there is a huge lagoon to the east. What should a person do when this happens? ”

Kaufman likened the situation to an additional tax imposed by the government.

“You’re taxed on your property… and according to this map, we have five sections here… we get the smell in the summer. We cannot open the windows. It’s just that we’re a dying race, I guess. It’s a serious thing, “he said.

After hearing from other county residents, most of whom shared concerns about the potential impact on water supplies, property values, and existing farms such as Kaufman’s, the town planning commissioners narrowed their selection to five contiguous land areas.

Three six mile strips of land extending east to west along the Beaver County line, shown on the maps as portions of Townships 26 South in Ranges 8 West, 9 West and 10 West have been selected. . In addition, two blocks of 36 square miles in range 8 west, townships 24 and 25 south were chosen.

When the sections were announced, a woman who accompanied Kaufman to the meeting – both declined to comment afterwards – protested.

“Why on us? The woman asked. “But everything you just did was on us. We’re the only ones who showed up to have it in there. And you put it all on us.

Richins explained that the planning commissioners simply voted to provide a recommendation to the county commissioners.

Planning Commissioner Peter Greathouse urged Kaufman to discuss the matter directly with county officials.

It was not known later when the county commissioners would take the recommendation into account.

Commissioner Bill Wright said he was not sure this would be on the agenda for the next regular committee. He said he believed the legislature would give counties more time to comply with the new law.

Commissioner Dean Draper, however, said he was not sure the legislature would grant such an extension before the law’s deadline and therefore the committee would address the issue at its Jan. 18 meeting.

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