Last week, several area farmers offered a reminder to residents and officials of Yankton County that agriculture is still a vital cog in the local economy.
They did this by moving 27 agricultural vehicles, mostly tractors, through the streets of Yankton in what was described as a tractor parade. (Organizers were hesitant to call it a protest.) The parade wound up at the Yankton County Government Center, where the county’s planning and zoning commission was meeting. Parade participants who spoke with the Press & Dakotan expressed concern or displeasure with the planning board over decisions that, they claimed, are hurting farmers. The participants were also unhappy with the composition of the board, which now includes few farmers.
Whether a reminder of the integral role of agriculture in the local economy was necessary probably depends on your point of view.
Nevertheless, the demonstration was the latest turn in the ongoing debate in this county over zoning issues, the development of concentrated animal feedlot operations (CAFOs) and urban growth in rural areas — all issues that have stirred divisions here in recent years.
The issue has grown even sharper in recent months. Last fall’s county commission election swept out three incumbents who were advocates of agricultural growth that included facilitating the development of CAFOs in the county using existing zoning regulations. The new commissioners are seen as taking a different direction that’s more attuned to critics of CAFO development.
As we’ve noted before in this space, what the two sides seem to bring to the table feel like two different realities. Those who are against CAFO development say they want to protect the environment and the county’s quality of life. The pro-CAFO advocates say the new facilities adhere to strict zoning standards and are designed to be sensitive to environmental concerns and, thus, the county’s quality of life. Third parties might genuinely get lost trying to sort all this out.
Last week’s parade would seem to serve as a reminder of something that’s also been noted here previously.
This is a rural state, and farmers have to be able to do business in this county in order for Yankton County to survive economically.
That being said, the environmental concerns cannot be ignored. We don’t want Yankton County (or any area county) to resemble some of the stories we’ve heard emanating from other states where CAFOs are rampant and their impacts on air and water are quite evident.
There has to be an effective balance.
But that’s easier said than done. The crafting of zoning regulations was a long process, and it had to weigh the aforementioned issues. It’s the document that now regulates development.
Differences and conflicts remain, however. Last week’s parade was an indication of that.
Thus, the discussion continues — rather, it needs to continue. The balance that must be found is a constantly moving target, and the work to reach that point can never end.