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Hog farm proposal not well received

Eddie Emerson | Staff writer
Approximately 150 Trade Lake residents and nearby neighbors jammed into the Trade Lake Town Hall on Thursday evening, April 18, to announce, almost unequivocally, that they are "mad as all get out” about a multi-thousand hog feeding operation proposed on a parcel of land currently owned by the town chair. - Photo by Eddie Emerson
Reporter's notebook:

TOWN OF TRADE LAKE - In perhaps what is destined to become a rural populist slogan, 150 Trade Lake residents and nearby neighbors jammed into the Trade Lake Town Hall on Thursday evening, April 18, to announce, almost unequivocally, that they are "mad as all get out” about a multi-thousand hog feeding operation proposed on a parcel of land currently owned by the town chair.
The site of the proposed "concentrated animal feeding operation” is a 35-acre parcel located 1 mile west of Bass Lake Lumber on Hwy. 48, near where the cellular tower now stands. Longtime town of Trade Lake Chair Jim Melin owns the land where an Iowa-based limited liability corporation plan to operate the hog farm facility. An offer to purchase agreement between the parties has been secured.
The Melin family has been farming the area for more than 100 years. Melin has been town Chair for 30 years. Now 65, Melin is hoping to transition his Lucky Oats farm operations, including 2,500 acres planted in corn and soybeans, to his son, Erik. In January, a consultant for Suidae Health and Production appeared at the Trade Lake Town Board meeting, introducing himself, handing out business cards and explaining his interest in purchasing land in the area for a large hog feed operation. Melin said he called the consultant while on his way home from that meeting. Large hog feed operations are proliferating in southern and central Wisconsin and Suidae is one of perhaps a dozen such corporations seeking to conglomerate the hog market.
Suidae is hoping to expand operations into northern Wisconsin to avoid cluttering near other large hog operations, where viral diseases, such as swine flu, are known to occur. They say they plan to build a $20 million dollar facility and employ 20-30 people with a starting salary of $35,000 per year. They will purchase all of their feed locally, from Burnett Dairy Cooperative, which should push up the price of grain for all local farmers. The manure is to be acquired by the Melin family and in-ground injected over 1,000 acres of near-by farmland. Modern technology will minimize any smells and the DNR inspected nutrient management plan will protect against any pollution of the ground water table. Pig manure, while rank, is far less per animal unit than cows produce.
Residents at the meeting were not buying into the sales pitch.
"You’re asking us to accept a lot of risk and to give you our trust and I just ain’t feeling the love,” one man said to applause.
A sense of place
The Trade Lake town hall is a 40’X30’ colonial classical building constructed by early Swedish settlers in 1890. It is said to be the oldest continuously operated town hall in the State of Wisconsin, and probably anywhere west of the Mississippi River.
Preservation of this sense of place is a central core tenet of Trade Lake residents. The Town Hall is located off-the-beaten-track at the bottom of Mission Hill and is the site of the oldest Swedish settlement in Wisconsin. A grand old home with a local historic marker out-front identifying it as the site of a former Trading Post sits immediately adjacent to the Town Hall. Across the street, still standing like a ruin, are the remnants of the old creamery that once employed dozens. Down the road from the Town Hall is the settlements original cemetery. Atop the Hill, looking down upon the government building, is the Swedish Mission Church, lovingly restored and maintained by local residents still descendent from the original settlement families. There are about a dozen homes and perhaps 24 permanent residents who live in the old settlement, with the Trade River running through it.
Mad as all get out!
In the early evening of April 18, as the sun began its long spring setting and a half-hour before the meeting was to begin, cars were parked along the side of the town road a quarter of a mile back to the Trade Lake Bait Store. By the time the meeting began, in what was said to be the largest crowd to attend a Trade Lake Town Board meeting in at least 30 years, 150 residents surrounded Melin and other town board members as they sat at the center table and called the meeting to order. To describe the crowd that gathered as standing-room-only would be an understatement. Fifty people sat in chairs with another 20 on a bench against the wall. Tens of others were standing elbow to elbow akin to a mosh-pit at a rock and roll concert. Others spilled out the two doorways. It was so claustrophobic inside the meeting room that it was difficult to breathe and residents kept the two doors open wide in a desperate attempt to circulate air. When the fire went out in the wood stove, the Town Hall’s only source of heat, and the hog farm consultant began his presentation, the temperature inside the hall, and the crowds reception to the presentation, became noticeably cool.
The township population is equally divided between deep-rooted year-round rural residents and lakeshore cabin owners who live here only seasonally. There are about a dozen prominent lakes in the township with Big and Little Trade, Spirit and Round lakes being the most densely settled and the biggest vacations draw. The crowd that showed up with concerns about the hog feed operation were predominately rural country-dwellers; most lakeshore homeowners not yet returned from their winter haunts.
With the American flag tacked to the wall above the three-stall voting booth, and the Great Seal of the State of Wisconsin hanging over the main entrance door, and with the largest crowd in modern history to attend a town board meeting, one had the sense of experiencing a phenomenon; an example of small town participatory democracy that would make our founders proud. Inside the town hall, old scruffy farmers wearing ball caps in barn worn jackets and hard scrabble women who seem to know what it is to work the land, testified for nearly 3 hours, asking articulate questions and growing more raucous as time wore on.
"You are coming here giving as a bunch of side talk,” said Susan Hanson, a middle-aged woman visibly moved as she addressed the hog farm consultant. "We live in an environmentally fragile eco-system and you want to place your hog farm right in the middle of it all. Whatever you do will impact the quality of our life. We have heritage here. This land is our birthright! I’m mad as all get out!”
The crowd in the Town Hall exploded in claps and cheers ...
The residents eventually voted overwhelmingly against the hog farm proposal but such a vote may have no relevance to the hog farm eventually being built, residents were told. A more detailed story of actions and comments will be provided in next week’s newspaper.


Reader Comments
Paul Cienfuegos[email protected]
APR 29  •  I just now submitted a long comment, but for some reason the url address didn't copy. Here again is the webpage where we have listed all of the Community Rights ordinances that have been passed around the country since 1999: http://communityrights.us/community-rights-ordinance-campaigns-across-the-us/. If this once again doesn't copy, then just go to www.CommunityRights.US and click on "Learn With Us" in the main menu to find that ordinances list.
Paul Cienfuegos[email protected]
APR 29  •  I am a full time community organizer and workshop leader with the Community Rights movement. Since 1999, our movement has helped more than 200 communities in twelve states to pass locally enforceable laws that ban legal but harmful corporate activities (including CAFO's), and push back on the state's outrageous claim of preemption. About 95% of these local laws have never been challenged in court, effectively banning water withdrawal for bottling, fracking, spraying of pesticides on forests and farmland, etc. You can view a full list of ordinances passed thus far here . I am based in Portland OR, but am living in Rockford IL for the next two months, and would be happy to assist your community in discussing an effective way to keep this CAFO out of your county. I will be leading an introductory Community Rights workshop near Spooner on June 1st, which you are welcome to attend. Or feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] If your local elected officials are ignoring the will of The People there, you have the option of immediately launching a recall campaign to oust them from their seats. That may be your best first step if they are currently unwilling to even consider slowing down this CAFO approval process. And fyi, a Community Rights ordinance can still be passed even after it has been given a go-ahead by your local elected officials. The residents of your county have WAY more legal and constitutional authority and power than you may realize, and a Community Rights strategy may be your best bet to stop this thing dead in its tracks. I would be happy to assist you. Just get in touch.
Richard Hess[email protected]
APR 23  •  What a gifted writer of what went on their with excellent background information about our Town.
Phil[email protected]
APR 23  •  We take issue with the comments: "old sruffy farmers in barn worn jackes", and "hard scrabble women". Many there are regular people in clean clothes, college educated, lawyers, and decent home owners. There was also an MD present. This was not an accurate description of the crowd present at the meeting.
Norman Peterson[email protected]
APR 22  •  At the outset, Dr. Jeff Sauer stated he was a farmer too. Right. Dressed the part with a seed hat (not bent or scruffy) semi camo jacket. He reiterated several times "I'm a farmer!" pretty transparent as he is a veterinary doctor. How many doctors farm? He is a very slick point man for Suidae, a mega pig operation from Iowa and avoided most questions quite well. When a motion was brought forth from a resident to have a moratorium vote, Chairman Melin immediately said "no". That is working down in Glen Flora to delay Suidae but here, it didn't even get the floor to vote. It was a done deal before we even knew about it. A pattern that Dr. Sauer uses throughout the midwest to promote this mega business. This time it really worked well as purchasing the land and future fertilizer from the town Chairman was brilliant. Slicker than an eel skin wallet. Any way, as Mr. Melin stated, "Trade Lake is dying" Yes, lets just euthanize the water shed since the lake is as good as dead anyway. Always respected you and your family Jim. Signed, A resident from under the bus.
Kim Anez[email protected]
APR 21  •  I am disappointed that this article dealt more with feelings than with the facts. I would love to hear what the Code of Ordinances says is an allowable number of hogs per acre. What is the plan for manure management? How are the hogs contained and managed? Are they treated humanely? What about the neighbors in their other operations? What about odor? I prefer dealing with the facts.
Richard Huset, MD MPH[email protected]
APR 20  •  The Trade Lake annual meeting regarding the hog farm featured a rep from the Suidae Corporation of Iowa. He asserted that his presence was simply in the interest of project transparency, but that the development was fully underway without need for citizen input. While I find that mildly offensive, the remainder of the presentation was more alarming. The rep asserted repeatedly to many questions from folks who will live near the project that the company had NO contingency planning because none was needed. Nothing can go wrong and their stuff doesn't stink. [This despite the admitted facts that the hog farm will be on a high hill and the headwater of the Trade River's North Branch is 800 yards away downhill]. Certainly the facility will be high tech and when working as planned may meet high standards. But to have no contingency planning for spills, damaged property buy-backs, disease outbreaks with dead hogs, or water contamination in the aquifers would be corporately irresponsible. In that case, Suidae would probably be uninsurable and uninvestable. Therefore my bet is that contingency plans ARE in place, sheltered from public view, and putting the lie to transparency. [submitted as letter to the editor, 4/20/2019, by Richard Huset MD MPH]
Pete[email protected]
APR 19  •  Ah yes, vote against all you want, but the old boys club, Mr Melin and his cronies are going to cram it through anyway, with Mr Melin standing to make a large profit. Typical old school corruption


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