Dairy calves in hutches.
October 19, 2017

Wisconsin Dairy Business Group Claims Victory Over State DNR

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

The Wisconsin Dairy Business Association (DBA) says it has secured a settlement with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) over how it regulates runoff from feed storage areas and calf hutches.

DBA filed a suit July 31, and the settlement came today. “More than anything, this is a victory for the rule of law,” says Mike North, DBA president. “The DNR or other state agencies can’t make up rules as they go along. There is a process that must be followed, and that process promotes public participation, legislative oversight and transparency.”

The DNR, in its settlement, agreed to rescind blanket changes in standards for vegetative treatment areas (VTAs) and calf hutches. Instead, the agency will only order changes on a case-specific basis where it deems conditions on a farm are warranted. All environmental water quality safe guards remain as is, and no state laws were changed by the settlement.

“This lawsuit was never about rolling back regulations. It was about creating regulations according to a legally prescribed process,” says North.

In the settlement, DBA did agree to drop a third claim of the suit regarding a large farm’s duty to apply for a permit. DBA claimed the Wisconsin DNR was exceeding federal standards that require a specific type of permit only if the farm discharges nutrients to a navigable body of surface water. DBA  had hoped its duty-to-apply claim would result in a harmonization of state and federal law, but also realized it would be the most challenging of the three claims to win in court.