Dairy Business Association Sues Wisconsin DNR Citing Government Overreach
There’s a battle brewing in Wisconsin over the state’s manure management laws. On August 1, the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association (DBA) filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The lawsuit alleges the DNR is overreaching it’s authority by implementing new regulations without going through approval processes required by the state of Wisconsin.
“We’re not looking for a free pass on regulations. We’re asking the DNR to follow the rules,” says Mike North, president of the association in a press conference on Thursday. “The agency clearly is overstepping its legal boundaries on this and other issues.”
One example included in the lawsuit is how the DNR is now requiring farmers to manage rainwater runoff. According to the DBA, farmers in Wisconsin were forced to abandon previously approved vegetative treatment areas (VTAs) for water collecting tools like lagoons.
When the DNR made these changes the DBA believes they “circumvented Act 21, which requires agencies to follow a specific method of rulemaking based on public transparency and lawmaker oversight.”
“Farmers are not above the law. The Department of Natural Resources shouldn’t be either,” North said.
For Wisconsin farmers, these changes not only cost millions of dollars but cause a great deal of uncertainty and could increase the risk of pollution.
“The DNR — unfairly, unnecessarily and illegally — is putting the livelihoods of dairy farm families at risk,” he said. “They need to be treated fairly and provided with predictability in order to run their businesses successfully.”
When confronted by farmers about the DNR’s move away from VTAs, the department claimed they were forced to change the law. However, according to DBA, collecting water in lagoons as DNR is now requiring is not required by federal law.
“Dairy farmers are committed to doing the right thing for their cows, their communities and the environment,” North said. “Now, we need the DNR to do the right thing in regulating our farms.”