By Cynthia L. Miller


TOWN OF SYLVESTER – The Sylvester Town Hall was packed Monday evening, Aug. 24, with citizens concerned about the proposed construction of a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) in the township.

A nervous buzz could be heard throughout the room prior to the meeting. Town Board chairperson Anna Anderson promptly called the meeting to order at 7 p.m. and invited Todd Tuls to speak first. The Nebraska dairyman spent over an hour talking about his current dairy facilities and about his plans for the one proposed in Green County.

The Tuls own two mega dairies in Nebraska, the first built in 2000, and a second that opened in 2008. In 2009, they set their sights eastward and began researching a site in Rock Prairie, near Janesville. That CAFO opened mid-December, 2011.

According to Tuls the Rock Prairie site has been up and running for the past three years and they haven’t received any complaints from local residents on how it is operated. Tuls also said their aim is to build good relationships with area farmers, to provide them with an alternative market for their crops. Looking to do the same in Green County, the Tuls have established a relationship with the Baders, meeting with them over the past year and conducting soil exploration to see if their land would serve as a viable site for building a CAFO. “According to DNR standards, theirs is a viable site,” stated Tuls.

“Why come to Wisconsin?” questioned Meredith Tripp. Tuls responded, “It’s a beautiful state. There is a dairy structure here that needs more milk. We have been shipping milk to the Grande Cheese plant near Juda for the past six years; six trucks every day. They want our high quality, low somatic cell milk, load after load. Our milk is very consistent and of high quality. There is a need for high quality, consistent milk.”

Tuls said that his company has 170 people working for them. They are all U.S. citizens who pay taxes and receive health care benefits.

As the evening wore on, Tuls fielded questions regarding manure distribution and storage, trucking routes, water and air quality concerns, monitoring systems, and labor issues. Concern again arose regarding water monitoring. Dick Tripp stated that the DNR doesn’t have the staffing available to reliably monitor water quality in the area. Tripp is a volunteer with W.A.V., an organization that privately monitors water quality throughout the watershed, and reports to the DNR. “They [the DNR] has recently cut 15-18 positions. We are giving them our date. They are not a very reliable group.”

Tuls explained the various monitoring systems that have been put in place. He also stated that he is a dairyman – that is what he does and feels he does it very well. He said that his company paid almost $450,000 in property taxes last year in Rock County. The company gives back to the communities they inhabit, to youth groups, fire departments, other organizations and individuals.

John Winters brought up the issue of bonding and asked Tuls how much he was willing to spend to be a good neighbor, to make sure make sure the water quality is protected, the roads get repaired if they are damaged by his trucks, and what would happen if they pull out and leave. Tuls stated he was not prepared to answer that question at this time.

After over an hour of discussion, Winters suggested everyone step back and press the pause button. “I think it is best for us to sit back and look how we can protect ourselves from this change, and this is a big change. It is going to affect the area – good or bad. It is time to look at what we have for laws – for both groups, for the CAFO and for the community. At the end of the day, we are all going to live together.” Tuls responded, “Rules do make us better. I am a better dairyman because of some of the criteria. Did I like everything the DNR imposed? No. It’s painstaking. Rules have made us better. As long as we are not creating rules that are only for the 5,000 cow dairies. We are not a bigger threat because we specialize in everything that we do.”

Jen Riemer stood, leading the transition from discussion to action by introducing an ordinance that would “allow the Town of Sylvester to impose a moratorium providing adequate time to study, review, consider and determine whether creation of a Livestock Facilities Licensing Ordinance with requirements that are more stringent than state standards is necessary to protect public health or safety in the Town of Sylvester in light of the unique environment and characteristics of the area and the concerns expressed by Town residents and property owners.”

At that time, board chairperson Anderson, and town board members Terry Reed and Mike Hasse took time to read through the proposed ordinance before voting to allow it to be posted publicly. Under legal advisement, the board agreed to post the ordinance in three places as well as posting it as a class 2 legal. The ordinance will be placed on the Sept. 17 agenda, allowing the board to take action at that time.





1.) “The Board voted unanimously to accept the ordinance.”  Actually, the board voted unanimously to post the Moratorium ordinance for public input effective immediately and to add it to the September monthly board meeting agenda for a potential vote.  We can not vote to accept/approve/pass it until it has been posted and a public hearing is held.