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Wisconsin Mega-Farms Face Hearing–Richfield Dairy Fate Tied To Kinnard Farms Inc.?

February 9, 2014

How Wisconsin regulates industrial-size livestock farms has become a major statewide concern.  As it should be.

When talking about these types of farms in the past I have mentioned a political point that should not be missed.  It strikes me that those who now so often rail against these farms come from areas where the voters cast ballots for conservatives who decry government regulations.

Richfield Dairy has been straightforward about their plans for the mega-farm for the Coloma area, and for better or worse it is consistent with their other state operations.  Combine that with the intent of the voters in the area who elected Scott Walker who wants business creation, along with the fact the DNR is run by Walker’s appointees all might simply mean that elections have consequences.    But of course the issue is much larger as it impacts our natural resources, and therefore the entire state has a stake in this matter.   This issue of mega-farms also predates the election of Governor Walker.

One of the best chances at making some concerte changes to the permitting process for these farms comes on Tuesday at a hearing when concerned neighbors of the Kinnard Farms Inc. in Kewaunee County seek a ruling that will require the DNR to place more regulations requiring surface and groundwater monitoring and limiting the number of cows.  Administrative law Judge Jeffrey Boldt will preside at the hearing.

The DNR is not backing down on their rationale for allowing the permit process to proceed in the fashion it did and are going to put up a strong defense of their action.  With the current rule in place, and with the permit granted to Kinnard means the farm can grow by 55%.  That means the number of cows grows from 5,627 to 8,710, or about 6,200 more head of cattle.

There is no doubt state regulations for groundwater safety and well-water usage that are now on the books are not sufficient to meet the problems that are presented by these farms known as a ‘concentrated animal feeding operation’.  A stronger permitting process is certainly needed, as items such as dust, smell, traffic, road impacts or noise are not covered by the permit.  Each farm needs to submit to the DNR a five years plan, and no one should be shocked to know that in each case the farm claims that there is no need to worry about the millions of gallons of manure impacting groundwater.  (Nothing to see here, folks!)

The Kinnard farm projects 70 million gallons a year of manure and the Richfield Dairy estimated the quantity of manure and process wastewater (including precipitation runoff) at 55.3 million gallons, plus an additional 8,552 tons of separated manure solids.  Richfield Dairy estimated  water usage at the facility to be about 52.5 million gallons per year.

The numbers are simply staggering, and the problem is these farms are populating more parts of the state, and there seems no one has the political will to rein them in.  If Mary Burke is seeking to address an issue that needs a voice there is clearly one to be found with the mega-farm industry in Wisconsin.

Since 2000, the number of Wisconsin dairy CAFOs has more than quadrupled and now stands at 222 facilities. About 30 more applications are pending, according to the DNR.

Kewaunee County, with 14 permitted dairy CAFOs, has some of the densest livestock farming in the state. At the same time, its landscape of thin soils over porous karst bedrock is particularly vulnerable to groundwater pollution.

Opponents of the Kinnard expansion say the state’s regulations and enforcement have been too weak to protect their water.

They provide pictures of manure-tainted water flooding houses, or runoff streaming across people’s properties. They mention Casco Creek, in other sections a blue-ribbon trout stream, now running brown instead of clear.

They point, also, to the town of Lincoln, where half the wells have tested unsafe for nitrates or bacteria and hormonal water has been found in some wells. The source of contamination is often unclear and can include leaky septic systems or bad well caps, but University of Wisconsin researchers have estimated that 90 percent of nitrate contamination comes from farms.

The farm has received three notices of noncompliance, the least serious level of offense, since 2010 for land spreading violations, as well as the 2010 notice of violation for its manure lagoon overflowing.

One Comment
  1. skip1930 permalink
    February 13, 2014 12:33 AM

    The farm was there long before you people moved in. Move out or live with a Reverse Osmosis water system.

    Let the farm expand. Give the one finger salute to the DNR. Way too much power.

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