How to Stop a Factory Farm in Your Community

Is a CAFO moving into your community? Are you looking for a place to start to fight the factory farm? We've listed a number of different tactics to put pressure on the CAFO and engage your community members.

1. Don’t Get Surprised. Monitor for Factory Farm Activity. Be vigilant about monitoring for factory farm activity in your county. The sooner you find out about any proposed CAFO, the better chance you have for stopping it. Check weekly with your county Land and Water Conservationist and with your local DNR Field Office for any new applications.

2. Alert Neighbors. Contact everyone in a two mile radius of the factory farm to let them know about the application and to find out where they stand. Make a list of everyone who is willing to oppose the confinement. Organize a meeting to plan out your strategy.

3. Gather Information. Get a copy of all the paperwork involved from your county Land Conservationist or the DNR field office. This includes the engineering specifications for the facilities and manure pits, nutrient management plan (NMP), and the Livestock Siting Law (ATCP 51) application in counties that have adopted it. Identify the CAFO operator and anyone who is accepting manure onto their fields.

4. Review the Application. Review the nutrient management plan (NMP) and contact all the landowners listed to receive manure to verify a) they are aware they are listed to receive manure and b) if they are receiving manure from any additional CAFOs or local farmers. Check with your county zoning and land conservation departments to see if the CAFO operator needs any local permits to operate in your county. Challenge anything that is questionable on the application.

5. Talk with Farmers About Taking Manure. Educate farmers about the potential consequences of accepting CAFO manure for his/her fields, in particular the recent WI Supreme Court ruling that manure is a pollutant when it enters a well. Offer Door County's conservation farmland lease as an alternative to traditional farmland leases. If the CAFO operator can’t find a location for his manure, he won’t have a viable manure management plan, and he won’t be able to build the facility.

6. Meet with the CAFO Owner. Believe it or not, sometimes a community meeting can change a CAFO operator’s mind about building a CAFO in your neighborhood. Use this meeting to explain your concerns about the facility. Try to keep the meeting cordial and productive, but be firm that you don’t want the CAFO built near you. If the CAFO operator understands they will have fierce opposition, they may walk away from a difficult situation. If not, and you wind up in court, this meeting will work in your favor.

7. Start a Petition. Gather signatures of all neighbors within a two-mile radius. Include homeowners and renters, businesses, schools (parents are a good source for signatures), churches and its parishioners, and other organizations. Show this petition to the CAFO operator when you meet. (But don’t give him/her a copy.)

8. Send the CAFO Owner a Strong Message. Use a variety of strategies to let the CAFO operator know his actions are not welcome in your community. Posters around town, yard signs, protests, letter writing campaigns, and ads are just a few approaches. Talk with friends of the CAFO operator to let them know the community is upset with his/her actions.

9. Prepare for Public Hearings. If a public hearing is involved, carefully prepare your comments and write them up for submittal. Be strong but be respectful, and focus on legitimate points.

10. Seek Support from Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP). If you have an organized community group and you are looking to take your group's actions 'up a notch' or would like to get help with strategy or resources, contact SRAP. They educate the public about the problems caused by factory farms, work to help communities protect themselves from the devastating impacts of these facilities while, at the same time, providing help and guidance for those who are trying to reclaim agriculture by producing and marketing sustainable agricultural goods.

11. Use the Press. Go to the press with concerns about the factory and try to get news coverage. Write letters to the editor; take out ads listing your concerns. Be very careful not to say anything libelous or to make any personal attacks.

12. Getting Nowhere? Consider Legal Action. Wisconsin's laws favor industrial agriculture over community rights, and no matter what you do, many CAFOs get built. Once a CAFO is operating, there are laws in place to protect you and your family from any infringements the CAFO may impose on your rights as a citizen. Contact Midwest Environmental Advocates or Clean Wisconsin for help and advice.