News from the Secretary

News from the Secretary by Larry Gabriel How far away should the feedlot be?

South Dakota has two kinds of wind, and how far away a feedlot should be depends upon the winds � the surface wind and the political wind.

Possibly the biggest problem we face in developing new value-added agriculture in South Dakota is opposition from neighbors.

Some opponents don't like the idea of a numerous animals in a small space. Others fear new competition in their area of production. Some don't like anything new. But, at the heart of most real (as opposed to politically motivated) complaints is an idea expressed by the old saying, "Not in MY back yard you don't!"

The problem is not unique to South Dakota. It is common throughout the Midwest and Great Plains regions. As more former town dwellers "move to the country" for the benefits of the rural lifestyle (and they are many), the conflict between them and agriculture is inevitable.

Resolving such conflicts is why we have laws, but there are several ways to go about it.

Some states have statewide setback standards. Other states leave it up to the local governments. Others have a state-wide rule but allow counties to opt out.

South Dakota currently lets the county decide. What about those who live on a county line? Do 500 hogs smell bad farther away in one county than in another? Maybe that difference is due merely to political wind.

There is an effort to create a model ordinance for county zoning. The model divides the county into areas of primary use and the setbacks distances differ depending upon the primary use.

We could adopt a statewide setback law saying that no one may build a CAFO (legally defined Confined Animal Feeding Operation) within a set distance of an existing residence and no one may build a residence within a set distance of an existing CAFO.

Or, we could graduate the distance depending on the number of animal units in the CAFO as is done in parts of Minnesota.

Whatever the setback standard is and whether it is local or state law, it must be reciprocal. That is, if I can't pen my herd for the winter within half of a mile of a house, the county should not permit the building of a house within half of a mile of my cattle lot.

There should be some way we can adopt a set of standards that are fair to everyone. We need to end to these needless squabbles that waste the taxpayer's money on special elections and legal actions.

There's no denying the heart of the conflict. Anyone who tells you that manure doesn't smell either has not been to the barn or has been in the barn too long.

On the other hand, some of the animosity and prejudice blowing in the political winds surrounding zoning disputes stinks just as bad as the manure they fear. Let us admit they both have an offensive smell and get on with a solution.

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