It is hard not to get caught up in the busyness of our daily routine, and often the tyranny of the urgent is what gets our attention. But something is happening in Madison that is urgent and needs the immediate attention of the farming community.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has proposed revising the Livestock Facility Siting rule. Their recommendations to the DATCP Board of Directors are based on a multi-year study by a panel of experts, none of whom were from production agriculture.
After reviewing the proposed changes and seeking legal interpretation, Wisconsin Farm Bureau is concerned about the impacts this proposal will have on Wisconsin livestock farmers. Specifically, there are three sections of the rule that are most concerning. These are 1) the elimination of odor scoring to be replaced with extreme setbacks from property lines, 2) the addition of yet another regulation for nutrient management and 3) the delegation of compliance monitoring authority over to local governments.
The setbacks proposed in the revised rule will severely limit where livestock expansions could take place and new livestock farms may be established. There has been no primary research to show that what is proposed would be practical, workable, cost effective, designed to promote the growth of animal agriculture or designed to balance the economic viability of farms with protecting natural resources. This issue should concern any livestock farmer anticipating expansion or passing their business on to a future generation. This is also an issue for those who hope the market value of their setup remains strong should they choose to sell in the future.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources already has stringent nutrient management and water protection requirements for large livestock operations. These are in addition to federal regulations, making livestock farms some of the most regulated businesses in our state. Additional requirements from DATCP would only cause contradiction to what is already required and create an additional financial burden. Farmers are willing to do what is right for their family, farm and the environment, but solutions need to be practical, workable and cost effective.
The original purpose for the Livestock Facility Siting law, which was passed in 2003, was to eliminate the patchwork of local regulations which created pockets around the state where farmers were not welcomed to expand their businesses. This law currently requires DATCP to monitor farms for compliance. It also offers local governments some opportunity to provide additional guidance in the siting and expansion of livestock operations. Farm Bureau believes that returning to individual local governments monitoring compliance will only prove to stifle growth. This would negatively affect the health of our rural economy.
Wisconsin agriculture needs you to stand up and be the voice of reason for livestock agriculture. WFBF is asking YOU to take a stand by emailing or writing a comment to the DATCP Board. There are many voices out there actively working against agriculture in our state. Now is the time when the voices supporting agriculture need to be heard. DATCP is accepting comments on the rule through Friday, September 13. You can comment via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, mail to DATCP-ARM, PO Box 8911, Madison WI 53708 or online at https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/feedback/agencyform?cite=cr/2019/98.
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Debi Towns is Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s senior director of governmental relations. As a registered lobbyist for WFBF, Towns works to advance the policy directives for Wisconsin’s largest general farm organization.