Dairy cows feed in 2010.

After a lengthy and divided public discussion Tuesday evening, the Eau Claire County Planning and Development passed a proposal 4-1 for a one-year moratorium on approving new or expanded concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

The motion will go forward to the County Board at its next meeting Tuesday.

A small group of residents proposed the idea for a moratorium early this summer due to concern of the impact livestock agriculture may have on the area environmentally.

The moratorium, according to that proposal, could allow the county time to investigate the impacts that large-scale livestock facilities have on groundwater, surface water and air quality, as well as to review current ordinances.

If passed, the ordinance will prevent Eau Claire County farmers with more than 1,000 animal units from expanding the number of animals fed, confined, maintained or stabled by 20 percent or greater within the next year.

County residents in favor and against the moratorium spoke for nearly an hour at the meeting.

Tammy Schroeder, a farmer who owns 400 dairy cows between Augusta and Fall Creek, spoke against the moratorium. She said it unfairly targeted her as a livestock farmer and a businessperson.

“In this economy, as any other businessperson, we need to be ready to take advantage of any opportunities that arise in a year,” she said. “This moratorium targets only animal agriculture. It’s also a crop producer’s concern, and any regular citizen’s concern.”

Those in favor of the moratorium recited statistics of the impacts livestock agriculture has had on the environment in studies and research, specifically by contaminating groundwater. Others asked for that year so the county can investigate the issue.

“I believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Linda Norton of Eau Claire. “If it doesn’t start somewhere, who is going to do it? Who’s going to protect our air, our water, our land and other resources?”

Supervisor Gary Gibson was the only committee member to vote against the proposal.

“Farmers do probably a better job than anyone I know of managing the land,” Gibson said. “We’re pointing our finger at the farmer, and it’s wrong.”

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