DBA President Tom Crave made the following comments today at a press conference about proposed changes to the state’s livestock siting regulations. DBA is one of 11 groups that have banded together in opposition to the changes. View press release here.
The livestock facility siting law helped our dairy community stabilize and grow after years of decline. It also gave local governments a useful tool to regulate these facilities. The current law is working. The changes would undermine the rule’s effectiveness, hurt Wisconsin farmers and send the message that we don’t want modern dairy farms in our state.
In addition to farming, I also serve on my local town board. Livestock siting is just one more tool for town governments that want to regulate land use.
It is worth noting that less than half of the counties and only a fraction of the towns have chosen to regulate livestock facilities at all. Most have not found it necessary. Making these rules even stricter and less practical will not encourage their adoption by more local governments. In short, the changes are step in the wrong direction.
DBA and our coalition partners are asking the DATCP board not move these changes forward to the Legislature without addressing some of the most serious problems with the proposal. From DBA’s perspective there are three main issues with the current draft:
First, the department staff has recommended abandoning the current odor management standard for an unproven and extreme setback-based system that would be completely unworkable in rural Wisconsin.
These new setbacks will keep people from investing in new farms and will make it hard or impossible for existing farms to grow in place.
Next, the change blurs the lines between DATCP and DNR’s authority by coming close to establishing the zero-discharge standard for all farms covered by livestock siting. Incorporating new standards that discourage the use of vegetative treatment areas, or VTAs, is one example of that.
Keeping VTAs is entirely consistent with the no-substantial-discharge standard that farms covered by siting must now meet. The authority to regulate CAFOs rests with the DNR, and confusing the two programs undermines the reasoning behind having a separate set of livestock siting regulations.
Finally, we are worried about how the changes could expand local control and local conflicts. When livestock siting came into being 13 years ago, local governments were throwing up roadblocks to farmers. This made Wisconsin a patchwork of regulations, giving farmers little certainty and turning the process into emotional ordeals driven by uninformed opinions and local politics. Communities were divided and farmers’ reputations were ruined. We cannot go back to that time.
These changes would have a significant chilling effect on Wisconsin’s dairy community and the businesses that support it.
Livestock farms are already heavily regulated by a host of state laws, administrative rules and a growing number of local regulations. More regulations are not what our farmers need as they struggle to recover from years of depressed milk prices.
Instead, we should go back to the drawing board and think about how to make smart, highly focused changes to the rule to make sure that it works better for agriculture, local communities and rural residents.