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STURGEON BAY - A letter signed by Door County Board Land Conservation Committee Chairman Ken Fisher is being sent to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, expressing local concern over proposed changes to manure spreading regulations in areas of Northeast Wisconsin.

Departing from the practice of a single set of regulations for the entire state, The DNR held a hearing in Green Bay earlier this month on a proposed “Targeted Performance Standard” governing the spreading manure on croplands in “Silurian Dolomite Areas” that exist in areas of Door, Kewaunee, and Brown Counties — areas known as karst regions.

The principle characteristic of the region is that, geologically, there is a thin layer of top soil above fractured lime stone.

Liquids — from rain, snow melt and manure spreading — quickly penetrate to the underlying aquifer where homes get their drinking water. Bacteria contamination of the water supply has occurred in Door County, while Kewaunee County has experienced pollution in over 30 percent of its wells.

The DNR had a set of statewide regulations — commonly referred to as “NR 151” — governing large farm operations with more than one-thousand animal units. Often called factory farms, the DNR calls them Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations — CAFOs.

The Green Bay hearing September 15 was on a proposal to require all animal farming in karst regions to comply with the CAFO standards.

Small Door County farm operators — with as few as 50 animals — told the Land Conservation Committee at its meeting last week that the changes could put them out of business. 

Environmentalists from the region also spoke at the meeting, urging doing more to protect drinking water.

On a three-to-two vote, the committee approved responding to the DNR by its Oct. 4 deadline to comment and make recommendations on the changes proposed. 

The key concern expressed in the letter involves financial help for small farmers who have invested in upgrades to their operations that the revised NR 151 regulations in would make non-compliant.

“The Land Conservation Committee recognizes that the targeted performance standards may have a significant impact on some Door County Farms,” the letter said, asking for clarification on “standard cost sharing practices (that) have already been installed and/or are not sufficient to address the changes needed to comply with the proposed standards.”

Copies of the letter have been sent to Mike Gilbertson, DNR Water Resources Management Specialist, and to State Senator Frank Lasee and State Representative Joel Kitchens.

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