For years, DBA has been proposing moving the permitting process for larger farms from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). In Wisconsin, the process applies to CAFOs, which generally have 700 cows or more.
Nobody seems particularly happy with the program as it stands under the DNR. A legislative audit showed it was failing to meet internal and external benchmarks for getting things done. Farmers are tired of long delays for the approval of even basic changes on farms. Environmental activists are concerned that oversight is not what it should be. DNR is probably tired of being blamed for the program’s shortcomings.
Here are the main reasons DBA thinks this would be a positive change:
DATCP is well-equipped to handle regulating farmers, farms and on-farm practices. DATCP is engaged in regulating every single dairy farm in the state through a farm’s milk-producing permit. Also, the agency has in-house experts that regulate and monitor nutrient management plans (NMPs), engineering plans and livestock facility siting regulations, all of which overlap with the regulation of CAFOs. In short, transferring the CAFO program administration to DATCP will only be giving people in authority who are already in the business of regulating farms another element of oversight on some of the farms around the state.
Moving the permitting program administration to DATCP would free up resources for DNR to focus on other priorities and pursue other initiatives that are crucial to our state’s environmental goals.
This move is not unprecedented. Departments of agriculture in other states are successfully administering CAFO programs, and others are pursuing that authority.
Wisconsin is and always has been America’s Dairyland. As evidenced by the public outcry over the license plate comments, the people in our state want to keep Wisconsin as America’s Dairyland. As a state we need to double-down on policies that help our dairy farmers, and this change certainly is consistent with doing just that.