Sep 19, 2014

Wisconsin Dairy Business Association Is the Scourge of the Environment

U.S. Homeland Security Acclaims
the value of our water; why can't
politicians and Big Ag?
I've said this before, but I have to say it again. The Dairy Business Association (DBA) is driving a wedge between dairy farmers and non-farming citizens.

Where we previously enjoyed beautiful family farms run by caring multi-generational stewards of the land, we now deal with the stink of industrialized farming factories polluting our lakes, streams and groundwater while sucking up the subsidies initially intended for family farms.

The DBA is a tool of these industrial farmers, spending $200,000 annually buying influence in Madison. They care nothing for the environment, ignore the science, and instead generate gobs of hyperbole to deflect and defer.

Unfortunately, they have a number of our representatives and administration people in their back pocket. Coming from a farming family, it saddens me to see public attitudes towards farmers worsening so quickly.

Like the dirty, polluting factories of the early 1900s, these large agribusinesses are becoming the scourge of the environment. They'll make a mess of our environment, then take their money and run to the next opportunity, while we clean up their mess.

Manure-laden in Kewaunee County,
Wisconsin. Don't drink the water!
In it's haste to reclaim the title of "America's Dairyland", this [Scott Walker] administration is blindly ignoring the effect on our groundwater and surface water. It's a short-sighted objective sure to result in long term problems, many of them irreversible. Remember that when you vote.

Don Ystad
Rome, WI

There They Go Again
The dairy industry defends the indefensible

By the River Alliance of Wisconsin

We've almost gotten inured to the dairy industry's rationalizations, denials, obfuscations, deflections and excuses for not changing its polluting ways. For decades, dairy farmers blamed sea gulls for algae pollution in Lake Michigan. They used to blame algae blooms in the Madison lakes on dogs and geese, until they finally succumbed to the decades of research conducted by world-class UW-Madison scientists and hundreds of graduate students which have proven that the Madison lakes' algae blooms are caused largely by farm runoff.

When they don't have a handy scapegoat for the problems they cause and need to buy time, farmers and their groups invariably call for "more research," even if extant research is unambiguous in defining a problem.

And there they go again, this time in Kewaunee County. That county is saturated in cow manure, and the already-huge farms keep expanding. The groundwater there is very vulnerable to contamination as the county sits on "karst" geology -- shallow topsoil underlain by porous and cracked rock.

Manure-laced water can run through these cracks and straight to the aquifer. About a third of 550+ wells tested recently in the county had some form of contamination.

The county is bravely attempting to regulate this problem by limiting how much manure can be applied in vulnerable places at certain times of the year. It's a common-sense and long-overdue partial solution to a looming public health crisis.

Enter the Dairy Business Association (DBA), a trade group. It has innuendo and fear-mongering down to a science (maybe the only science they understand), and, true to form they're pushing back at the proposed Kewaunee ordinance.

It calls provisions of the ordinance "vague" and likely to "confuse" farmers. The ordinance is actually quite specific in its prescriptions for manure spreading on vulnerable lands. DBA insults its own brethren by saying they will be confused by the ordinance. These are sophisticated people running complex businesses.

DBA contends the ordinance was provoked by "a couple of studies." To the contrary, the problem the ordinance is trying to solve has been well understood for years, by several studies and analyses, including the testing of thousands of wells.

Given that 10% of wells "throughout Wisconsin" have nitrates, observes DBA, what's the big deal? Imagine if we knew that 10% of car accidents in the state had one cause. You think we'd want it shrugged off like DBA wants well contamination shrugged off? And by citing only the nitrate number, they conveniently ignore coliform bacteria, even salmonella, in well water there. And even if the water you see in this sink were pure, would you want to brush your teeth with it?

There's more but it's almost too frustrating to read. But we're not too frustrated with talking about it -- certainly nowhere near the frustration of hundreds of Kewaunee County residents having to live with what one observer called "Third World conditions" for drinking water.

We will have more to say in the coming weeks about this issue. Meanwhile, reading the excellent Restore Kewaunee website will give you a taste (we use that word advisedly) of what's going on Kewaunee County, and the brave fight underway.

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