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Dunn Co. PR&D recommends rezone for Denmark Dairy expansion

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Planning, Resources & Development Committee is recommending the county board approve a rezone of 100 acres for a proposed expansion at Denmark Dairy.

The PR&D committee reconvened a public hearing October 24 on the request from Denmark Dairy, located on county Highway B south of Colfax, to rezone 120 acres from General Agriculture to Intensive Agriculture.

At the October 10 PR&D meeting, committee members indicated they would be more comfortable rezoning half of a 40-acre parcel to Intensive Ag because of concern for Sinking Creek, which runs across the northeast corner of the parcel.

The parcels are located east, west and north of the existing dairy.

Karl Kragness, who owns and operates Denmark Dairy with his parents, Dennis and Mary Kragness, said the plans for expansion could work if only half of the 40-acre parcel in question was rezoned.

Dennis and Mary Kragness currently own the two 40-acre parcels to the west, and PR&D members learned at the October 10 meeting if the ownership of the land is transferred to Denmark Dairy, then setbacks for the parcel boundaries do not apply concerning buildings and manure storage lagoons constructed by the dairy.

PR&D members also learned if the dairy owned the parcels, then the land would not have to be surveyed, and a property description would be sufficient to identify the 20 acres that would be rezoned to Intensive Ag.

Denmark Dairy currently milks 1,300 cows, and at the October 10 meeting, Kragness said he eventually would like to put in a rotary milking parlor for milking 2,200 to 2,400 cows.

The expansion is expected to occur over a four-to-eight year period, he said.

The request for a rezone also includes a third 40-acre parcel to the east of the dairy intended to be used for feed storage.

The northwest 40 was included in the rezone because there might not be enough room close to the existing manure storage lagoons to add another one, and at least part of a new lagoon might have to be built on the adjacent parcel, Kragness said.

No rezone

Mike Kneer, county board supervisor from Menomonie and a member of the PR&D committee, said that while he did not want to prevent the Denmark Dairy expansion, he would prefer not to rezone the third 40-acre parcel.

Even without the “top 40,” the dairy can still expand, Kneer said, noting he was concerned about rezoning the entire 40 acres and then the ownership of the dairy changing at some point in the future.

Gary Bjork, county board supervisor from Colfax, said he disagreed with rezoning only 20 acres.

The state has setbacks for streams, rivers, lakes and ponds and sets a standard of zero run-off for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), he said.

Denmark Dairy is classified as a CAFO because it has more than 1,000 animal units.

A dairy cow is 1.4 animal units.

The area around Denmark Dairy is intensively farmed, even though some of the land is not zoned for Intensive Agriculture, Bjork said.

Kragness said he is a fourth-generation dairy farmer.

“I would not be investing to sell out … I take a lot of pride in this industry,” Kragness said.

Rezoning the 20 acres would give flexibility for the expansion project, especially since dirt may have to be stockpiled on the parcel, he said.

On other parts of the Denmark Dairy property, Sinking Creek is closer than it is in the upper 40-acre parcel, Kragness said.

The expansion is a long-term plan, and a lagoon cannot be built on land zoned for General Agriculture, he said.

“I have no intention of a monster farm owned by a corporation,” Kragness said.

Kragness said he had no problem with splitting the 40-acre parcel and only rezoning 20 acres to Intensive Agriculture.

“But to say we cannot touch any of the 40 might not accommodate (the plans for expansion),” Kragness said.

“It would be unfair to change now after the last meeting. It’s a good plan to rezone 20 (acres),” said Gary Seipel, county board supervisor from Eau Galle and a member of the PR&D committee.

In many of the areas where Denmark Dairy injects manure into the soil, there are waterways, Kragness said.

People often are concerned about lagoons leaking, but the real risk is of a lagoon running over, he said.

Manure storage lagoons are constructed with three-foot thick clay liners and concrete, Kragness noted.

All together, there are 10 water systems in the areas where Denmark Dairy applies manure to farm fields, he said.

Denmark Dairy is required to monitor all of the setbacks and to be careful of manure spills, Kragness said.

“Lagoons are engineered to last,” he said.  

Farmland preservation

Seipel asked Dan Prestebak, county conservationist, for his perspective on the rezone request.

The county wanted to be able to prohibit CAFOs in some zones, so the county needed to have a Intensive Ag zone where CAFOs could locate, Prestebak said.

The area in question is part of the county’s farmland preservation plan, and all of the 40-acre parcels are suitable for farmland, he said.

The parcels zoned General Agriculture around Denmark Dairy are inconsistent with the farmland preservation plan, Prestebak said.

Tim Berner of Ag Source Laboratories said he works with a variety of CAFOs.

All farms in Wisconsin are required to have an NRCS 590 nutrient management plan, but CAFOs also are required to have a Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit, he said.

CAFOs have no choice but to have a WPDES permit, and the permit must be renewed every five years, Berner said.

Approval

Bjork said the plan to rezone 20 acres instead of 40 “is a great compromise.”

“I would still like all three rezoned,” he said.

If a dairy farm cannot expand in an agricultural area, “where can you expand?” Bjork asked.

The PR&D committee unanimously approved a motion to recommend the county board grant the rezone for two 40-acre parcels along with the south half of the third parcel.