Aug 27, 2014

Scott Walker Administration Is Blind or Uncaring about Wisconsin Waters

'I’m all for growing dairy farms in our great state, but not at the expense of our drinking water'

Wisconsin is giving out grants, loans, and tax breaks to toxify and drain our waters, arguably Wisconsin's most valuable natural resource.

Of course, no one in Wisconsin government will tell citizens these facts of the so-called 30x20 Dairy initiative, a give-away to Big Ag and a take-away and poisoning project for everyone else.

The goal of the 30x20 Initiative is to "(i)mprove the long-term viability of Wisconsin’s dairy industry through services to achieve an annual milk production of 30 billion pounds by 2020 to meet the growing demand of the marketplace," reads the 30x20 initiative on the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection site.

This means bigger Dairy operations, and a government-sponsored means of vectoring liquid cow manure into Wisconsin streams, lakes and aquifers (from which a majority of regions get their drinking water).

Wisconsin politicians are too cowed by the Dairy Business Association, a repulsive lot, to oppose the 30x20 plan that is completely market-driven and does mention one word about water, literally not one word, not one word about the environment, and not one word about families' health from Ecoli and other pathogens directed into Wisconsin waters.

So, this morning we read Scot Walker sent out her Lt. Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch to cheerlead for America's Dairyland, as usual not mentioning water, health or the environment.

Kleefisch's piece is simplistic rah rah, intended as a distraction to what liquid cow manure runoff inflicts onto Wisconsin. See the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune this morning for her piece.

To hear the facts, listen to environmentalists because Wisconsin will reach a tipping point when fishing, swimming and even playing on beaches are distant memories if we maintain the same reckless trajectory.

"The marketplace trumps everything else in terms of policy discussions about agricultural runoff and water quality.  Two contemporary examples: On the livestock front, Grow Wisconsin Dairy 30x20 Program seeks to expand Wisconsin’s milk production from the current 26.1 billion pounds to 30 billion pounds in order to meet a growing market demand.  That translates to a 13% increase in dairy cattle. That will mean an increment of almost 200,000 more dairy cows in Wisconsin, emailed Gordon Stevenson, Chief of Runoff Management for the Wisconsin DNR from 2001-2011. "In terms of organic pollution potential, that increment is equivalent to a human population of greater than 3.5 million people. That’s bigger than the human population of Chicago and nearly as big as Los Angeles, California.  Of course, Chicago and LA have sewage treatment plants. The additional dairy cattle in Wisconsin won’t. Ironically, the hotbeds of dairy cattle expansion in Wisconsin are in Northeastern Wisconsin and the Central Sands."

On the crop front, we remain to be in the midst of a corn boom; motivated by the ethanol mandate as well as expanding international marketing opportunities. The result is that more than a quarter million acres that had recently been under conservation protection in Wisconsin are now back in crop production with a 20% increase in soil erosion, associated soil loss, water body sedimentation and resultant water resource pathology."

Silence equals acceptance and a betrayal of our children for whom Wisconsin used to promise to be good stewards of the environment, a promise called The Public Trust Doctrine.

"Wisconsin waters are at a crisis point. ... The benefits of public access to water were so basic to Wisconsin's very existence and definition that Congress guaranteed it in 1787 — before statehood — and public water rights are now inscribed in the Wisconsin Constitution as Article IX, 'The Public Trust Doctrine.] ... But Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-run Legislature are systematically draining the Public Trust Doctrine from law and programs through power politics and party-line votes, making water access and management into private-sector tools. Through complacent, shortsighted and partisan behavior, these politicians are disconnecting wetlands from their ecosystems and also disconnecting Wisconsin from imperative local-to-international water conservation planning," writes Jim Rowen (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).

Another formulation of these facts comes from our friend, Don Ystad in Rome, Wisconsin fighting off the greedy and short-sighted:

Emails Ystad: "Many generations of my family were Wisconsin dairy farmers.  Rebecca Kleefisch’ recent article about 'Growing Wisconsin’s Great Dairy Industry' would normally be received as great news. But, she failed to mention that over 30% of the wells in Kewaunee County are polluted by manure runoff, that a farm in Spencer allowed manure to over run for a year, spilling into the Little Eau Plaine River, that beaches at Wazeecha and Nepco in Wood County are closed because of e coli from manure runoff, that the dairy CAFO in Armenia has been ordered by the DNR to drain it’s manure pit to inspect for leaks, that the very lakes she can see from her office window in Madison are polluted from ag runoff.  Instead, she and others in the administration have a blind eye to the
ever increasing water quality issues reported all over Wisconsin. I’m all for growing dairy farms in our great state, but not at the expense of our drinking water.  And, I would encourage tax breaks for family farms instead of the huge corporate factory farm contributors behind this push. Not one word about a cautious approach to this increase in dairy, or a reasonable balance with the environment. Are we back in the early 1900s when industry road roughshod over the environment?  I’m tired of the greed and the business at all costs mentality. Unless you are a wealthy corporate factory farmer, you have to question how this benefits you."

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