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Confined Animal Feeding Operations

Richmond Jake

You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!
The counties of our state are mandated to adopt a confined animal feeding operations ordinance (yes, we're late, should have been done by Jan 1 of this year). We have a model ordinance from the state and some decent examples adopted by other counties. We feel we good understanding of the big issues with this. Anything unexpected arise by you folks that have blazed the trail in this matter? Thanks for any input.


Well, if by "arise" you mean a flood of 1.5 million gallons of liquid animal manure "rising" out of the holding pens and flooding the local irrigation ditch system...:(

Its a big issue in this county. My employer has not been real active, but the County is getting a lot of heat from local residents and nearby cities to better regulate the "mega dairies" that are seeking to locate here. (We are close to the Bay Area but the County of Solano still has some big tracts of land to the northeast).

el Guapo

Just a few thoughts on the subject

1. All of the following is based upon my real life CAFO wranglin' experience. Take it for what it is worth.

2. First, be prepared to accept that some elected officials really do think these things are a good idea.

3. Some otherwise reasonably smart people will think they will bring an economic boom to your town.

4. Some people will think it is the “American-Way” to stack 20,000 pounds of animal mass per acre.

5. Delineate acceptable soils, geology and stand off distances derived from established residences (buffers) and present a map to the public early in the process. There should be no surprises that the public or Joe CAFO can later say they were bushwhacked.

6. Don’t let them close your roads – they will try. I’ve seen them fence right a cross a road that was inconvenient.

7. Guard your right of ways. They will build where it is easiest. ROW’s be damned.

8. Cattle and waste trucks destroy county gravel roads very quickly. CAFO owners will locate on the cheapest land, which is often the land down the scrappiest roads in the county. Have these possible CAFO sites scoped out ahead of time.

9. They want often want charity - CAFO owners will scream "look what I am doing for you county's economic development - are you against growth?" They truly expect the county to build them a hard top road into town – “every other county in this state would do it for us!” Have the numbers describing EACH impact cost detailed and ready for each improvement the county will have to pick up for the CAFO. If the public understand that they are picking up the tab it will go easier.

10. They have the money to buy the press. Most small town newspapers take the hush money (ads). They will get everyone on the county commission singing their tune eventually. Nobody will show up driving a Dodge Panther with an EAT BEEF plate on the front, but there are a variety of ways to pass graft through Co-ops and land rental agreements. Money, like water flows to the lowest level.

11. Many, if not all of the CAFO workers will have less than splendid credentialing...wink wink. But the CAFO guy will swear he is only going to hire local boys. Yeah, right. Get ready for an entirely new set of social problems than the ones you have. Have the PD, Sheriff & Health Department call cities that have had the CAFO packing plant combo in town for 10-15 years. Maybe western Kansas could provide you with some examples.

12. Understand that your elected officials won’t believe when you warn them of all the things that can go wrong. But at least you will have done your due diligence

13. If you are about to get a CAFO and a packing plant combo do what you have to do to buy into the local liquor stores and Anheiser Bush distributorship. I kid you not. At least you’ll walk away rich(er).

14. Many non-traditional housing units will flood into your county from all over. A powder blue PRE-1978 non-HUD Windsor 60’ DeLuxe with smoke damage can be hauled all the way from Oklahoma and set on 24 cinderblocks for $5000. You may have a law against that practice already - that won't make a darn bit of difference. No Habla - Be prepared to dispose of trailers quick and effectively.

15. Be prepared for “guest workers” to begin all conversations with you by lying to you. Many come from a land where lying to officials like you is a survival mechanism. It is just the way it is. Establish trust by having six or seven meetings instead of one. Cultivate a go between that has creds with both sides.

16. 5-12 year old kids will be your primary translator when talking to their parents. Have some treats in the truck to reward them for doing a good job as a translator.

17. Have a property maintenance code and improved manufactured housing district regulations ready to go when the CAFO hits.

18. Many of the fly-by night trailer parks will not have sewer, water, parking, or meet your fire codes. You best have the political juice behind you to shut them down.

19. If your state environmental agency has been co-opted by state politicians - many of who are on the beef industry PAC crack cocaine - no one will ever get finded or punished for anything but the most egregious violations. Establish your own penalty scheme - provided you have home rule authority - and don't wait for the state to enforce the rules. Spank them yourselves.

20. Eventually the nitrate levels in the ground water will soar within two miles of the CAFO. Somehow get the funding for establishing a baseline Nitrate level as part of the permitting process. You should handle the testing. This should never be done by the applicant’s contractor.

21. Establish firm setback distances for CAFO's to stay away houses. New houses should not be allowed to develop within that buffer either. Everyone will want to sign a waiver on this matter. Make it a requirement to be filed with the Registrar of Deeds and incorporated into all following property titles.

22. Some day that cow poop will have to be land applied. Delineate acceptable slope, soils, drainage and geology before hand. Otherwise it will get poured into creeks when you are not looking by people who don't give a damn and will flee to another country as soon as they get caught.

23. Monitor the application rates carefully, require monthly reporting, inspections the transportation equipment (otherwise they will haul cow poop with little mermaid pools on flat bed pickups.)

24. Crappy used cars will flood the county. Be prepared to enforce your junk car and salvage yard regulations. Have your wife open a business that sells 30-day auto insurance for cash. Depart town when it is eventually trashed rich(er).

25. Try to require the posting of performance bonds for potential lagoon failure and clean up costs.

26. Take lots of photos. Just so you can see changes over time. My favorite is watching tree shelterbelts die from the dust of the trucks and the super BOD load in the topsoil as a result of spillage.

27. Cattle trucks will drive down narrow residential streets unless you tell them they can’t.

28. Cattle trucks will wash out 2-300 lbs of crap every time they drop off from a long haul. They will try to do it on your county roads until a truck wash is built. Be prepared for them to want to locate the truck wash near shallow ground water. They don't need city water to wash out a truck and shallow water is cheaper to pump.

29. Everyone in town with two acres will discover their inner subdivision (trailer park) developer. They want to get in on the ground floor.

30. Get ready for land sales with a 40% balloon payment at the end. This allows the landlord to sell the same piece of property again every 10 to 20 years.


My favorite story from a public hearing I attended as an observer: The local weekly rag nearest the megadairies (Dixon, CA) is a libertarian fanatic who looks identical to Valdimir Lenin (until he recently shaved his beard).

He stood up at a public hearing and insisted there were no impacts from megadairies. He loudly proclaimed that "if neighbors smelled something, they should call him directly because he will get the problem fixed quicker than any darn government agency" by golly.

Our County has permitted one, and there are at least two or three waiting in the wings. Fun fun.

Lee Nellis

There is not much one can add to what el guapo has to say. I watched the earliest round of CAFO's lay waste to much of the rural landscape I grew up in. SInce then I have watched them move to more arid regions where water quality battles are not so severe, or to out-of-the-way places where people think any job is a good job. The only policy a rational person would adopt is a ban on CAFO's, excepting the feeding of animals raised on the land to allow small farm and ranch feedlots, governed by reasonable performance standards. In the long run, the issue is food quality. The meat produced under CAFO conditions is acceptable only because people don't understand that there is a choice. Consumers need to respond by buying meat from local producers.



Get ready to defend the Public Interest and make sure you do some education with your local elected officials.

Might not be a bad idea to prepare a guide containing "best management practices" for local elelcted officials when they conduct public hearings. Input from a lawyer in the development of such a guideline is also recommended.