A group of Grant County residents are trying to change their county's rules on how much space concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have to leave between their putrid, polluting concentrations of livestock manure and neighboring farms and residences. The Grant County Commission has consistently told these citizens to buzz off. These citizens are now taking their case to the South Dakota Supreme Court, saying they should have the right to seek changes in their own zoning ordinances.
The case doesn't fit neatly into the convenient (and mostly wrong) partisan dichotomy of the South Dakota blogosphere. I'm squarely in the Grant County Concerned Citizens' corner, since I see them fighting for sensible regulation of CAFOs and the corporate industrial agriculture that kills family farms, small towns, and the environment. But the Grant County petitioners aren't enviro-whackos: they're multi-generation South Dakota farm families, probably more truly conservative than some of my counterparts in the conservative blogopshere. One writer on Big Stone Lake Area Forums says the group includes some folks who are anti-CAFO and some who are pro-CAFO. They are united behind just one issue: setbacks. And now they're fighting a county government that appears unresponsive to the demands of citizens, a government hauteur that ought to rile up everyone from greens to tea partiers.
Below is the story straight from the Grant County appellants. Keep an eye out for the high court's action.
Grant County Concerned Citizens
Received July 10, 2010
The Grant County Concerned Citizens have decided to appeal to the State Supreme Court, the recent Circuit Court decision, denying the people the right to seek a change in a zoning ordinance.
Kenny Wiese, president of the group, states that "This is no longer just a set back issue, what is at issue is the right of the citizens to vote. We are disappointed that the current County Commissioners have failed three times to recognize the request of many of their constituents to enact the proposed setback increases.
The Commissioners denied the proposal of the Grant County Towns & Townships Group in 2008, In November 2009; they denied the petition of the landowners to increase the setback. The Commissioners third opportunity came when they could have accepted the terms of the citizen's petition and allowed the issue to come to a vote.
"We feel we owe it to the people of Grant County and especially to the 787 landowners and 349 registered voters who signed these petitions to follow this through to the Supreme Court, " states Wiese.
Grant County Concerned Citizens (GCCC) was formed over 2 years ago when a mega dairy planned to build in Kilborn Township. They planned on bringing in thousands of cows and young stock, 3 manure lagoon and building housing for 35 workers on site.
GCCC is a grassroots organization whose members are mostly local farmers. Many of us started searching out all the information we could find about CAFO'S and the regulations about them. We learned quickly that there is hardly an enforcing of the regulations that they are supposed to follow. This isn't just in South Dakota; it is a problem all over the US.
Grant County Concerned Citizens are not against agriculture or livestock. We just don't want our farmers to be forced to have a CAFO too close to their lives and their livelihood. A lot of our farms are generations of people making a living off the land, raising their children, paying taxes, supporting the local towns and schools, and bring a lot of economic benefit to Grant County. Each of the small or midsized farms circulate a quarter million to a million dollars each in the community every year.
When many of the regulations were put into effect, no one could imagine the size or scope of the current large CAFOS. One day there is a bare quarter section of land; the next day there is a small village in the same spot.
This is what brought us to ask for a graduated set back. This graduated setback affects local producers little and forces the larger CAFOS to a reasonable distance.
Our efforts brought a petition before the Commissioners. When they rejected that, we presented another petition asking for the right to put this issue on the local ballot. Their refusal to do this forced us into the court system, where we find that though we followed the law on petitioning, we have been locally denied the right to vote. Citizens of our state should not have their voting rights taken away.
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