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February 19, 2020

Wisconsin Assembly Passes Phosphorus Water Quality Clearing House

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a streamlined, centralized process for trading water quality credits, particularly phosphorus. The state Senate passed similar legislation last spring, and it now awaits Governor Tony Evers’ signature.

The legislation would create a clearinghouse that makes it easier for farmers, municipalities and industries such as cheese manufacturers to buy and sell phosphorus credits, operating much like a carbon credit exchange.

Local water treatment facilities, cheese plants and other manufacturing facilities are tightly regulated on their water pollutant releases, such as phosphorus. Mitigating these pollutants is often expensive.

“Through science, technology and commitment, dairy farmers continue to build on innovative conservation methods that protect and improve Wisconsin’s water by reducing nutrient loss. This centralized approach to selling credits for those efforts would create an even greater incentive for the agricultural community to lead the way on this issue. We are part of the solution,” says Tom Crave, a dairy farmer, cheesemaker and president of the state’s Dairy Business Association.

“The clearinghouse is also exciting because it would foster more partnerships between rural and urban stakeholders to improve water quality and reduce the cost of doing so for everyone,” he says.

“SB 91 (the enabling legislation) is a win-win for rural communities, as it will help protect Wisconsin waters while providing a new source of revenue for farmers challenged by market, labor and weather conditions in recent years,” says John Umhoefer, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association executive director.