I hope Matt Johnson from the Vernon County Broadcaster doesn't mind me reprinting his editorial piece from this weeks paper. It is so important for everyone who opposes factory farms to make a comment or show up for the listening sessions in Wisconsin. Here is the article...
Public Has Its Chance to Address State’s Flawed Livestock Siting Law
by Matt Johnson, Managing Editor.
Anyone who has had a disagreement with the state’s Livestock Facility Siting rule (ATCP 51) will have a opportunity to tell the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection about it.
DATCP is holding four listening sessions on ATCP 51 -- in Dodgeville, Feb. 18; in Eau Claire on Feb. 23; in Oshkosh on March 2 and in Wausau on March 3. If you can’t make it to one of those sessions, you can e-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, fax them to (608) 224-4615 or mail them to DATCP, Attention: Mike Murray, P.O. Box 8911, Madison WI 53708-8911.
There isn’t a listening session within two hours of Vernon County. That’s good for folks from DATCP who are staffing the meetings. Because if there were a hearing on this matter in this county, DATCP would have to listen to a firestorm of negative comments about this law, which allows large-scale livestock operations to operate with virtually no oversight.
How do we know this? The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources explained it in detail to the Vernon County Board of Supervisors in May of last year.
If you will recall, the Vernon County Board was in the midst of discussing whether or not it should go on record as formally requesting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) seeking a permit to operate in the county.
To get input on the EIS, the board invited Thomas A. Lovejoy, of the Department of Natural Resources Environmental Analysis and Enforcement Supervisor out of Eau Claire, and Robert Rohland, the DNR’s Environmental Specialist for Watershed Management out of Black River Falls to speak.
What did they tell the county board? In a nutshell, that requesting an EIS or attempting to get the state to even recognize that the county’s karst geology might not make for a good place to site CAFOs was futile.
Lovejoy said that any entity applying for an ATCP 51 permit to run a CAFO simply had to meet the application standards. If that happens, they get a permit. There’s nothing any local government can do or say about it.
“If standards are met, the permit gets issued,” Lovejoy said.
Now, about those standards... They do not adequately address differences in Wisconsin’s geological make-up and there’s virtually nobody in the state of Wisconsin inspecting CAFO sites.
Rohland said a CAFO should be inspected by state officials twice a year. However, he said that "problems" have led to CAFOs being inspected by state personnel just once in a four-year period.
"It’s an area we’re trying to improve on, but everyone has had to make concessions in tough economic times," Rohland said. "The DNR isn’t immune to state cutbacks."
So, anybody who applies for a permit and meets the criteria gets one. Then unless the place explodes or leaks enough manure to kill fish or poison people, basically nobody is checking on them.
As we reported in May, after the county board meeting, Rohland specifically asked people interested in ATCP 51 to attend legislative sessions about the law and explain to state officials the problems with it.
Here’s a problem... The watershed of Jersey Valley Lake has been flooded with manure at least three times since 2005. The DNR knows this. How many citations has the DNR issued regarding these manure runoff events? Zero.
In March of 2009, after a manure runoff event was reported at Jersey Valley, the Broadcaster interviewed DNR water quality biologist Cindy Koperski, who works out of La Crosse. Koperski said that eliminating the manure runoff was something that needed to be controlled by farmers or by DNR enforcement.
When asked about greater enforcement or adding manure spreading rules, Koperski said the state had limited resources. About improving enforcement, Koperski said, “That’s not going to happen.”
Agriculture is big business in Wisconsin. It’s the lifeblood of Vernon County. We’re an agricultural community. Not every CAFO owner or operator is a bad actor. There is a place for big ag in Wisconsin. What ATCP 51 doesn’t do is allow people to make a case that the place for a CAFO isn’t here on our fragile karst geology. DATCP has no business continuing or expanding a livestock siting law that takes local control out of the equation. This is especially true when the Department of Natural Resources has so exhaustively explained it doesn’t have the ability to enforce the law.
DATCP has no idea the lengths people in Vernon County have gone in an effort to get the state to notice that ATCP 51 is flawed. Grassroots groups have formed, people have protested, community meetings have been held and the local government has been redressed. We’ve been told there’s nothing that can be done about it.
Well, now the time has come for DATCP to listen up, but you have to tell them. Nobody will do it for you.
Perfectly stated Matt. Thank you.