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Delta County officials have revised some of their intensive agriculture standards following the first round of public comments.

By Lisa Young

Staff writer

Delta County officials have reviewed a number of public comments regarding confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) or intensive agriculture during the ongoing land use review process.

The first round of comments submitted on or around July 22 revealed a dual-minded population in which some felt the regulations do not go far enough resulting in a “chicken barn lining every roadway” mentality. While on the other side of the henhouse, others complained that the regulations go overboard and will stifle agricultural growth. They want less regulation or state control.

To start it’s important to know what the county defines as intensive agriculture. The definition is found on page 157 of the Delta County Land Use Code (first draft) and reads:

Intensive Agriculture means a group of land uses that involve the raising, care, or feeding livestock, where the number of animals is equivalent to or greater than 50 animal units, and, the animals are stabled, confined, fed and/or maintained a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period, and, where crops, vegetation, forage growth, or post-harvest residues are not growing, irrigated and sustained in the normal growing season over any portion of the lot or facility.

The phrase “intensive agriculture” also includes concentrated aquatic animal production (“CAAP”). The phrase “intensive agriculture” does not encompass (without more) cattle and sheep that are moved between winter and summer pastures, and replacement heifers on property where other cattle are grazing.

The phrase “intensive agriculture” includes:

a. Minor Animal Feeding Operation (“MAFO”), which means any building or outdoor corral, pen, or other enclosure used to confine animals, where the number of animals is between 50 and 150 animal units, for the purpose of feeding or care, where no forage is harvested.

b. Intense Animal Feeding Operation (“IAFO”), which means any building, outdoor corral, pen, or other enclosure used to confine animals, where the number of animals is between 150 and 999 animal units, for the purpose of feeding or care, where no forage is harvested.

c. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (“Large CAFO”), which means any building, outdoor corral, pen, or other enclosure used to confine animals, where the number of animals is 1,000 or more animal units, for the purpose of feeding or care, where no forage is harvested.

An animal unit is defined as “a unit of measurement for determining the intensity of use of land for the keeping of livestock, by comparing the impacts of various animals to the impacts of a 1,000 pound cow.”

That breaks down to a Cattle-Beef = 1.0 AU; Cattle-Dairy 1.4 AU; Chicken 0.02 AU; Elk 0.5 AU; Geese, Ducks, Turkey 0.03 AU; Goat 0.2 AU; Horse 1.0 AU; Sheep 0.2 AU; Swine 0.4 AU and Bison 1.0 AU.

Ranch and farm operations that move cattle between winter and summer feeding grounds are exempt from the definition of intensive agriculture and may confine their animals including breeding stock during fall, winter and spring. In addition, any property where forage is grown and fed is also excluded from the definition of intensive agriculture, according to the draft land use code.

County Administrator Robbie LeValley said the fear that Delta County will be overrun with large cattle feedlots is unfounded since the county has a corn deficit. She said it would be cost prohibitive since feedlots would need to purchase corn elsewhere.

Most of the concern with the proposed CAFOs seems to revolve around a number of privately-owned chicken operations already in the county coupled with a fear that more will invade.

Under the current land code MAFOs allow for 2,500-7,450 chickens; IAFOs allow for 7,500-49,950 chickens and CAFOs allow for 50,000 plus chickens with no defined limit.

Some property owners have been vocal about how the private chicken houses are being operated. Concerns about the disposal of dead birds near water sources as well as air and water pollution from the spreading of uncomposted waste. Also mentioned in their concerns are odor, dust, pests and truck traffic being created by the chicken farms.

After reviewing the first round of comments, Casselberry prepared a second draft on the proposed land use code available on the county’s website. The latest update on intensive agriculture can be found in Chapter 2. ZONING DISTRICTS AND LAND USE; Section 5. Limited Use Approval Standards; B. Use Specific Standards on page 37.

The third and potentially final draft on the land use code is expected to be completed in the next few weeks following a second round of public comments and meetings with commissioners and the planning commission.

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