MADISON – Judging by those who testified about proposed changes affecting new or expanding livestock facilities at a hearing in Madison, reaction is mixed. There were a number of farmers and farm groups testifying that the proposed draft rules would be unfair and a number of rural homeowners who came to the hearing to talk about how their lives have been negatively affected by large livestock farms – especially by the manure handling activities.

Under Wisconsin’s livestock facility siting law, local governments do not have to require permits, but if they choose to do so they must abide by the standards and procedures set forth in this package of rules.

The hearing in Madison on August 22 was the seventh of 12 sessions the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has held on the rule changes. Another was held at DATCP headquarters during the evening of August 22.

Prior to taking testimony from the public, DATCP’s Christopher Clayton, the department’s program manager for livestock siting, explained that the state siting law, which gives the agency the authority to create these rules, was passed in 2004 to provide uniform local regulation for new and expanding livestock facilities.

As part of the law, DATCP is required to review the rules every four years. “We need to make sure they’re usable by local officials,” he said. The rule changes were designed to ensure consistent technical standards, to modify those standards based on recommendations of a technical expert committee and improve the process for local implementation.

The nutrient management part of the rule package was designed to bring the regulations into compliance with others. As proposed in the hearing draft rule, the nutrient management standard would match up with the NRCS 590 technical standard and ATCP’s rule 50. The proposal would also add the 2011 cropland performance standards in the Natural Resources Department’s NR 151 rule – five-foot tillage and Phosphorus Index standard – to the rule.

The rule also updates the manure storage facilities standard to match a 2017 NRCS 313 technical standard and also would require inspections of existing manure storage structures to prevent significant leakage and structural failure.

The rule package would also update technical standards for runoff from feed storage and animal lots. Many of those at the Madison hearing testified about the portion of the rule that deals with odor and setbacks. The rule proposes a new system for managing odor based on property line setbacks. Larger setbacks are applied to higher odor-producing livestock structures – manure storage, hog housing, poultry layer housing with slatted floors, and dairy housing with alley flushing. The rule also gives farmers credits toward reducing the setbacks if they install and implement odor control practices.

The rule also maintains basic setbacks from property lines and public roads while adding a 200-300 foot setback for facilities at 2,500 or more animal units.

Clayton said there have been 186 permits given under the siting rules: 11 for farms under 500 animal units or AU; 43 for farms with 500-800 AU; 62 for farms with 900-999 AU; 51 for farms with 1,000-3,999 AU; 7 farms with 4,000-5,499 and 12 for farms with over 5,500 AU.

There are significant areas of the state where the siting standards do not apply to farms because local governments choose not to participate in the system. According to DATCP officials, 80 percent of the siting permits have been issued by 12 counties and less than 2 percent of livestock facilities in Wisconsin have siting permits.

According to DATCP officials, 80 percent of the siting permits have been issued by 12 counties and less than 2 percent of livestock facilities in Wisconsin have siting permits.

DBA: Rules unfair

The Dairy Business Association (DBA), Wisconsin’s largest dairy lobbying group, called the changes to the rule “largely unworkable and unfair” and said if passed, the rule would “revive chaos that the rules were originally created to alleviate.”

Prior to the approval of the draft rule by the DATCP citizen policy board earlier this year, DBA was one of the groups that argued that the rules should not be taken to public hearings.

The DBA complained that the proposed rule fails to incorporate farmers’ feedback in the process. When similar changes were proposed in 2017, the DATCP board decided not to move forward without more input, the group said. They have also argued that the proposed rule does not meet the legal requirements of the livestock siting law, which dictates that the rules must be “practical, cost-effective, science-based and objective.”

DBA has called the new odor management standard in the rule an “unproven and extreme setback-based system that would be completely unworkable in rural Wisconsin.”

Many at the hearing disagreed, saying the new odor management rules don’t go far enough. Vic Karaliumas, who lives in the Town of Ixonia, near Oconomowoc, said he and his neighbors “are the ones who suffer the most from the effects of these CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations). He said his town is building a new wastewater treatment plant and wondered in his testimony why small communities need to comply with tight rules and CAFOs don’t. “I don’t think these new standards go far enough,” he added.

Shelly Mayer, a dairy farmer near Slinger (30 miles from Milwaukee) was on the DATCP board when the siting rule was enacted. She and her family milk 70 cows on the urban edge. She commented that the rule is “so important to define how we move ahead in a state like Wisconsin.”

Mayer said that Wisconsin needs all sorts of farms including CAFOs, small- and medium-sized farms to sustain the infrastructure that all of them need, including veterinary clinics and other service providers. “Our state’s future depends on us getting these rules right,” she said, adding that the dairy industry should not get into the “destructive battles of small versus large.”

A.V. Roth who runs a 2,900-head farrow-to-weaning hog operation in Crawford County, used the livestock siting rules to expand his operation in 2007. “With the new rules we wouldn’t have been able to do it,” he said in testimony against the draft rule.

Naomi Bernstein, a licensed agricultural engineer and certified crop advisor for Insight FS, said she opposes the changes in the draft, calling the setbacks “arbitrary and impractical,” adding that they would prevent expansions. She also noted that the more stringent rules for inspecting manure storage facilities will cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars without any environmental improvements,” as she registered her disapproval of the rule.

Ed Cohen, a resident of the Village of Summit, near Oconomowoc said he enjoyed a “once-idyllic country setting” until a 3,000-cow dairy in the area began spreading the equivalent of “20 Olympic-sized swimming pools” of manure annually, spilling manure on the local roads. He said he wanted to see laws that allowed local governments to enact higher standards than those included in the rules.

Siting author

David Ward of Fort Atkinson was a state legislator in 2003 and was the author of the state’s livestock siting law. He testified that he is opposed to the removal of the odor score sheets in the proposed rule. “It was a compromise and odor was left to the rulemaking process.

Dyan Pasono lives on 30 acres near Watertown and has been dismayed with the changes since one of her neighbors decided to expand to CAFO size – which she called “industrial scale.” She favored even more stringent setbacks in the proposed rule. “Industrial sized farming is an experiment that has gone horribly wrong,” she said.

As did others who testified after her, Pasono said local governments should be able to recoup the costs they incur as they work through the process of granting these permits.

Steve Pasono said the farm near them expanded from 250 head of cattle to over 3,000 head and they were told by their local government that it has no authority, which he called “demoralizing and depressing. Our dream of living a picturesque country life has been shattered.”

Harry Pullium, who lives near New Glarus said he applauded the odor score provisions in the rule package adding that there should be even greater setbacks. The rule should do away with the credits for odor mitigation practices, he testified.

Kathy Wolf, who lives in the Town of Springfield near Middleton also testified that the setbacks don’t “go far enough.” Weenonah Brattset, a town official, said she supported the setbacks, but added that they should be calculated on property lines, not on residences, adding that she would like to see a process for neighbors to register odor complaints.

Kirsten Jurcek of Jefferson agreed that the setbacks should be calculated from property lines and said that every manure storage structure should be inspected annually.

Hope Oastcik, a town chairman near Lake Mills where there is a large poultry facility, testified that the odors are “immense” and that the fees that her township gets from working with the large livestock facility owners “don’t begin to come anywhere near close to meeting the costs.”

Matt Krueger represented Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association at the hearing, saying that the non-profit group supports updating the rule. “It incorporates common-sense updates to the rule that haven’t been made for 13 years.” His group represents the 450 land conservation committee supervisors and 350 conservation department staff in counties across the state.

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“These standards are vital tools to ensuring farms are managed responsibly, and in ways that are protective of water quality,” he testified. His group supports eliminating selected odor-scoring provisions that weren’t supported by science, such as providing credits for having a nutrient management plan.

Manure structure inspections

They also support the requirement to evaluate existing manure storage structures for leaks, integrity and safety and the requirement to meet liner specifications contained in NRCS 313. They also support the requirement to control leachate runoff.

He agreed with township officials who had testified that the maximum fee of $1,000 is inadequate for local governments to recoup their costs. “We couldn’t have envisioned the changes seen in agriculture when this rule was written. We need better assurances for license reviews at the local level.”

Mary Elvekrog, a senior dairy lending specialist with Compeer Financial, said that when legislators crafted the siting law it gave farmers a predictable process. Her lending institution supports ongoing work with its clients for water quality improvements, but said that with weather and markets out of farmers’ control they “need certainty” from state government in this area.

Joe Ruth, with the Wisconsin Towns Association, said they have overall support for the draft rules but said the fees are “clearly insufficient.” Mike Kolas, also with the Town Association, said there are five worksheets for the permit, adding that there should be a sixth – one that deals with the impact of a facility on infrastructure. “No one anticipated the size of these operations,” Kolas said.

One example he gave is the impact on town roads. A well-built town road may have a useful life of 50 years, but with the traffic from manure trucks and other large-scale vehicles, the road’s life may be reduced by 30 years. These rules, he said, will neither increase nor decrease local control of the siting process.

Others, like Bethany Storm of Blanchardville, testified that Wisconsin needs to go back to local control since the state has such a “vast and varied landscape.” Kevin Colson of Wauzeka agreed that a “one-size-fits-all siting law” doesn’t serve the state well.

Tony Ends, who has a small farm on the Green and Rock county line in the Sugar River watershed said that CAFOs have contributed to overall total phosphorus increases in his watershed and in others aroiund the state. Local officials and residents are “hamstrung” by state laws, he said. One CAFO in his area generates more waste than the human residents of the municipality.

Ann Kieler, a farmer near Platteville, testified that hers is “a family farm, not an industrial farm.” Five families joined together to farm, work together and make decisions together, she said.

“We have implemented everything the DNR has asked. To all the people who are on our case I say this. We expanded because it was the only way to stay viable. I want some respect for farmers. I think we have enough rules and regulations in place,” she said.

Two more hearings are slated on the proposed rule. They are in: Onalaska on Sept. 4, at the Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center, 3060 S. Kinney Coulee Road, Thomas G. Rowe Room and in Spooner on Sept. 5, at the DNR Service Center, 810 W. Maple St., in Community Room 112. 

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