One of the recommendations of the county Master Plan adopted in May 2018 was to form a Concentrated Animal Feed Operation (CAFO) working group to help the county define and develop regulations for CAFOs.
The CAFO working group and county staff met with Delta County Commissioners and county planning commission members Dec. 5 to discuss their findings.
A source of community conflict during the Master Plan update concerned future concentrated animal feeding operations. Residents expressed concern about CAFOs locating near them, and producers expressed concern about being able to grow and evolve their agricultural operations to stay economically viable.
The county's current regulations are not considered consistent, fair or predictable, creating uncertainty for residents and applicants.
In June 2018 commissioners Doug Atchley, Don Suppes and Mark Roeber appointed six members to the CAFO working group, members selected to achieve a balance of interests. Members are Tom Kay, Steve Harper, Jacob Gray, Dave Whittlesey, Les Mergelman and Patrick Dooling of Western Slope Conservation Center.
County administrator Robbie LeValley and county community and economic development director Elyse Casselberry served as staff to the CAFO working group.
The group met almost weekly from the middle of June through the second week of October. The group spent significant time trying to develop a definition of what a Delta County CAFO should be.
They began by focusing on research, including EPA and state regulations, and regulations from other counties and states. The group met with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Mesa County, Montrose County and Weld County. Members individually researched other counties and states. A significant library of resources was developed.
The group was not able to get to consensus, although some key ideas and concepts discussed had broad support from the group, as did the general outline of the definition, thresholds where setbacks increased, neighbor notification and thresholds in the review process.
The key issue that kept the group from coming to consensus was setbacks.
One key issue where consensus was reached is in the definition of what is not considered a CAFO. All members of the group agreed that a CAFO is not a livestock operation where animals are moved between winter and summer pastures or confinement of replacement livestock on property where other livestock are grazing.
County staff will work over the next six to nine months to develop new land use regulations that incorporate a new CAFO definition and set of criteria. Members of the CAFO working group may be asked to come back together to provide feedback and input to staff.
These land use regulations will be subject to public review and input.