Wisconsin’s livestock siting law provides consistent, statewide standards and procedures for local governments to regulate the construction of new or expanding livestock facilities over a certain size. It also established the Livestock Facility Siting Review Board as a new method of appeal for applicants, and it set a timeline for review and approval of new facilities.
The livestock siting law was passed in 2003 as Wisconsin Act 235. It directed the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to create rules regarding the siting of livestock facilities in the state.
Those rules became known as ATCP 51 and took effect in 2006. They set standards for siting new facilities in areas of the state zoned for agricultural uses, and on livestock operations expected to house more than 500 animal units.
An animal unit is defined as 1,000 pounds of animal weight. So while a single grown cow would be considered more than one animal unit, while it would take a small flock of chickens to equate one animal unit.
The rules do not require that all livestock facilities be sited; instead, for local government units that choose to regulate construction of livestock facilities, it creates consistent standards that must be used in approving or denying applications.
The law directed that the standards should be science-based. The comprehensive standards cover a wide range of requirements, including facility setbacks from property lines and roadways, nutrient management, waste handling and storage, odor control and runoff management.
At the time of passage, the state legislature also specified that the standards be reviewed every four years. The review includes evaluation by a technical expert committee appointed by DATCP. This committee reviewed the standards for the first time in 2010. Public comments were accepted as part of the review.
The rules also established a consistent application and timeline by which local governments must adhere to. They also created the Livestock Facility Siting Review Board as a new method for appeal of a local decision by an applicant or resident living or owning property within two miles of the proposed facility. The board is appointed by the DATCP Secretary (with appointments subject to State Senate confirmation) and is granted statutory authority to uphold or overrule local government rulings on siting permits. Applicants and others eligible to seek appeal may also do so in circuit court.
DATCP has worked with the Wisconsin Towns Association and other local government associations to develop model ordinances that comply with ATCP 51.
The livestock siting law is credited with making the permitting process more predictable and timely, as well as facilitating growth in Wisconsin’s livestock industry and ag industry.
Current Issues & Status
The livestock siting law is required to be reviewed every four years. The first review was completed in 2010, with a technical expert committee developing its report in December. While the technical expert committee was charged by the legislature with making technical recommendations on standards, many of the proposed changes border on policy, and should require legislative action beyond simple changes to ATCP 51.
Among the committee’s recommendations were decreasing odor control credits available to farmers, removing 2,500-foot exemptions from the odor credit rule, allowing local governments to decide if winter spreading of manure should be permitted by operations with between 500 and 1,000 animal units, adopting new feed storage standards that lower the moisture content threshold for feedlot runoff, and requiring manure storage to be emptied for inspection prior to permitting.
Given state government’s change in administration in early 2011 and continued work on corresponding state rules (NR 151 and ATCP 50), it is expected that DATCP staff will develop proposals for changes to ATCP 51 that could be presented for public comment in late 2011 or early 2012. Farm Bureau supports farms of all sizes, and will accordingly monitor the rulemaking process as it progresses.
Resources for More Information:
Interactive Map of Municipalities with Facility Siting Ordinances
Summary of Siting Standards
DATCP Website w/ Full Application and Worksheets
2010 Report of the Technical Expert Committee to DATCP Board
Administrative Rule ATCP 51 Full Text