Aug 12, 2015

Big Ag Pressures Wood County Board to Drop Groundwater Protection Initiative

Dairy Business Association fights local efforts
protecting against toxic, liquidized cow manure. DBA
members are the worst polluters of Wisconsin waters.
Protect groundwater and we'll pollute more, says Dairy Business Association

Update: See also this morning's Farms, environmentalists spar over manure measure (Jonathan Anderson, Gannett Co. Newspapers); and rebuttal letter to the Board by Midwestern Environmental Advocates, dated August 12, 2015.
As residents of Wood and Adams counties fight to protect groundwater, Big Ag in Wisconsin as embodied in the Dairy Business Association, is arguing for the right to pollute.

The Dairy Business Association (DBA) in a letter dated August 6, 2015 to the Chair of the Wood County Board of Supervisors (and Cced to Board members) calls a proposed groundwater protection ordinance "unnecessary and potentially counterproductive."

The proposed ordinance will be considered in a County Board meeting on August 18th.

The DBA's members are among the worst polluters in Wisconsin, and DBA lobbyists still disingenuously cloak its operations in the image of the small farmer as industrialized factory farming corporations take over the production of agriculture in the Dairy State in the model of the huge Concentrated (Confined) Agricultural Feeding Operation (CAFO).

The text of the August 6 DBA letter by John Holevoet, Director of Government Affairs for the DBA, is reproduced below.

The DBA is politically aligned with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and local State Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) both of whom worked to decimate the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources water protection division, with Walker now calling for dismantling the federal EPA to whom clean water advocates have appealed for water protection from DBA members.

The DBA's Holevoet admits clean water advocates' point on groundwater and pollution and argues in a ludicrous line of reasoning that protecting groundwater by law will "discourage investments in new technologies and facilities that would better prevent the possibility of groundwater contamination."

Protecting groundwater by law will only hurt you, argues the DBA in its letter reading more like a threat.

Blue Baby syndrome (aka methemoglobinemia now prevalent in Yakima Valley in Washington state, caused by too many nitrates in surface waters and aquifers) will come to Wisconsin, and the DBA will keep on its pursuit for money over people.
August 6, 2015

Mr. Lance Pliml

Wood County Board of Supervisors, Chairman
4030 Woodhaven Court
Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494

Dear Chairman Pliml:

This letter is written on behalf of the Dairy Business Association (DBA) and its Wood County members, regarding the proposed Animal Waste Storage, Nutrient Management and Groundwater Protection Ordinance. DBA urges you to vote against this proposed ordinance, which has a questionable legal basis. This type of regulation is unnecessary and potentially counterproductive.

When the County Board previously discussed the proposed ordinance, Corporation Counsel Peter Kastenholz was clear that he did not believe the county has the authority to impose its own groundwater standards. The authority to produce such regulations has been granted to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR); it has not been delegated to the counties. This is no doubt why the most recent ordinance draft avoids direct groundwater regulation and attempts to address this issue through manure storage standards and the implementation of nutrient management plans (NMPs). These are areas over which counties have had some limited authority.

The ordinance's attempt to walk the fine line between legality and illegality calls its enforceability into question. At a minimum, concerns over the legality of certain provisions will likely produce legal challenges if enforcement attempts are made. For example, the ordinance has the potential to require NMPs for some very small farming operations. Any farmer who builds or alters a manure storage facility is subject to the requirements of the new ordinance, which includes the preparation of an NMP.

Nutrient management planning is worthwhile and should be encouraged, but it is doubtful the county can require it for non-CAFO farms unless the county provides cost sharing. (See ATCP 50.54(2).) Large farms that fit the legal definition of CAFO already have to prepare NMPs. This ordinance would impose additional requirements on such farms. This could create an issue if/when the requirements in a county manure storage permit conflict with the state requirements these farms must follow. This ordinance sets the stage for a situation where the county would deny a permit to a farm seeking to make an alteration to their manure storage that is required of them by WDNR.

This ordinance is meant to safeguard groundwater quality, but it will likely discourage investments in new technologies and facilities that would better prevent the possibility of groundwater contamination. Existing manure storage facilities are not generally subject to regulation under the proposed ordinance, unless they are altered in some way. This would discourage farmers from adding additional storage or updating existing facilities because that would subject them to all of the requirements associated with an animal waste storage plan. Discouraging investment and improvements on farms is not good public policy.

Farmers that only stack manure but might be considering constructing a more secure manure storage facility could be discouraged by the ordinance requirements. This could prevent them from growing their herd size and leave them stacking manure even if the runoff risk from their stacking location is far greater than it would be from a new manure storage facility. We want to encourage farmers to grow, invest, and innovate. This ordinance does the opposite.

Agriculture plays a vital role in Wood County economies. Our farmers are valuable members of our community. They are our neighbors and we know them to be good stewards of the land. This ordinance is a solution in search of a problem. There is no reason to believe that groundwater quality is significant concern in Wood County, nor that it is likely to become one. DBA asks you to seriously consider whether this ordinance is worth the added costs to farmers and all the taxpayers of Wood County, especially considering that portions of it may be unenforceable.

Unfortunately, this ordinance appears to be an example of legislating rules for the entire county based upon unfounded concerns regarding one proposed farm in one small section of the county. Wood County is home to a handful of geographic regions, two radically different types of soil, nearly three dozen municipalities, and approximately 1,000 farms ranging from cranberries to dairy. It is a diverse place. Even if the proposed ordinance was a sensible approach for southern Wood County, which it is not, it would make absolutely no sense for the clay fields found in the northern portion of the county. To dictate policy for the entire county based upon incorrect perceptions that only relate to a small corner of the county anyway is foolish. It would be bad governance, and we ask that you reject it.


John Holevoet
Director of Government Affairs

cc: Wood County Board of Supervisors


  1. In the 2012 25th Assembly primary I was the only farmer in the race having had a 60 cow operation and still owning a small farm here in Manitowoc county. One would have thought that familiarity with the industry would have gotten some points with them. Instead DBA endorsed my opponent Jim Brey who openly opposed the Clean Water Act as an "unfunded mandate" because of urban run off requirements. Only in the general election DBA turned and endorsed Republican Paul Tittl who eventually won by a large majority. Go figure!

    1. Sociopathic DBA. What manner of psychology of these people? They know well what they do. Should Blue Baby syndrome (aka methemoglobinemia now prevalent in Yakima Valley in Washington state, caused by too many nitrates in surface waters and aquifers) come to Wisconsin, I'm quite sure DBA members will lose no sleep.

    2. The situation in Kewaunee county is already a crisis with 40% of all private wells now contaminated with e. coli. Yest the 16th farm has filed an application for expansion to CAFO status. Kewaunee is perhaps the worst place in the state to locate these operations with their Karst soil/rock formations that allow quick seepage of manure directly down into the rock aquifer. The county could never produce enough feed for all the cattle there now. It is trucked in. Which means the amount of manure just keeps increasing and the land just cant take it.

  2. We Can Change this if we Stand Up together and insist on healthy farming practices for our communities and farms.

  3. Interestingly enough all members of the Wood County Board of Supervisors received a copy of the letter EXCEPT Bill Liechtnam, Supervisor of the majority of Saratoga where the proposed CAFO would be placed. Coincidence?