ENOSHA — Wisconsinites, accustomed to the smell of dairy air, now have the skunky stench of hemp as part of their scent profile.
In Kenosha County, Somers residents repulsed that their backyards could soon have a new aroma have learned it’s a protected odor under the state’s right-to-farm law. And they have their Bristol neighbors to blame.
“The bottom line is, we can’t do anything,” said Somers attorney Jeff Davison, tasked with looking into whether Somers could require a buffer zone between hemp fields and subdivisions.
Wisconsin’s right-to-farm law was enacted after the pungent odor from a chicken farm in Bristol was deemed a nuisance by the state Supreme Court in 1981.
Quality Egg Farm Inc., in operation since 1967, was shuttered by a lower court after years of complaints from neighbors about the smell that permeated from the property, located near an elementary school. The 140,000 chickens on the farm in 1974 reportedly produced 15 tons of chicken manure per day.
The court case led state officials, lobbied by farm groups, to enact legislation to protect the economic interests of the agricultural industry against such nuisance claims.
Every state has some version of a right-to-farm law. Many were enacted when rural America met urban sprawl.
Wisconsin’s law protects lawful farming practices, including crop and livestock production, beekeeping, fish farming, and now, hemp growing.
Basically, it states these ag-based activities cannot be found a nuisance if conducted on land that was in agricultural use before the complainant moved next door.
Residents of Covelli Heights subdivision, located in the 800 block of 22nd Avenue (Highway Y), approached the Somers Village Board in November after they learned the farm located southeast of the subdivision had applied for a license to grow hemp.
They noted the law does allow a farming practice to be deemed a nuisance if it presents “a substantial threat to public health or safety.”
Colleen Dosemagen and MaryAnn Cardinali, vice president of the Covelli Heights homeowners association, voiced safety and crime concerns. They pointed to reports that school children were getting ill from the smell in some areas.
Resident Guy Santelli said other states where hemp is grown have ordinances in place that limit the proximity of the fields to subdivisions, parks, schools and municipal buildings.
“It is a plant that very much smells like marijuana when it is being grown,” Santelli said. “It grows 6 to 12 feet tall, and it is quite different than the crops of cabbage, soybeans or corn that we are used to.”
However, Davison said Wisconsin laws prevent local municipalities from enacting ordinances regarding hemp, contrary to what is set forth in the 2017 industrial hemp pilot program regulations.
“It’s not a matter of local concern,” Davison said. “The state makes the rules and issues the licenses.”
Village officials said they have and will continue to voice the residents’ concerns to state officials and encouraged them to do the same.
Trustee Gregg Sinnen said that because it is a pilot program, legislators may be willing to make changes based on what was found to work and not work.
Trustee Karl Ostby said with hemp flooding the market, prices are so depressed the problem may partially take care of itself, as farmers drop out of the market.
A farmer in the audience noted that hemp was selling for about $18 a pound, down considerably from $150 per pound a year ago.
Also, those who are not locked in with a buyer will be hard-pressed to find one, meaning they will have to retail the product on their own.
Sinnen said given the market reality, there may not be as much push back from the agricultural community if changes are proposed.
Original Transcript from: https://www.lakegenevanews.net/news/local/got-a-hemp-farm-next-door-better-get-used-to/article_8101f332-2ea3-5ddb-b22f-09358417af9f.html