The president of the Dairy Business Association says a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was “never about rolling back regulations.”

“It was about enforcing existing rules and policies,” Mike North said in a statement in response to Midwest Environmental Advocates’ latest lawsuit. “A new rule is not necessary to follow existing standards.”

Mike North, president of Dairy Business Association, Photo by Patrick Flood Photography LLC

The DBA lawsuit in Brown County Circuit Court alleged the DNR does not have the legal authority to require concentrated animal feeding operations to obtain a wastewater discharge permit unless the CAFO actually discharges wastewater into navigable waters.

In the settlement filed Oct. 18, the DBA dropped that allegation, while the DNR agreed that vegetation patches are valid pollution control-systems and to stop regulating calf hutches.

The agreement says the state agency will enforce only those standards and requirements for feed storage leachate or runoff management that are explicitly permitted by Wisconsin law, and not to consider calf hutch lots to be included in the definition of a “reviewable facility or system,” which requires an independent engineering plan and specification review and approval.

A petition filed last week in Milwaukee County Circuit Court argues that the settlement limits the state agency’s ability to protect public health and clean water without the ability or opportunity for the public to intervene and defend the public interest.

North said the settlement keeps all existing water quality safeguards in place and does not change the duty to comply with federal law.

“As a result of the settlement, those existing standards will be more fairly and effectively applied on a farm-by-farm basis,” he said. “Current practices will continue where they are working and farmers will need to make changes when the practices aren’t working.”

New rules need to be authorized by statute and created through the proper rulemaking process, North said.

“The settlement emphasizes that the DNR cannot make up rules on the fly,” he said. “The environmental groups that filed the petition apparently agree with this. There is a process that must be followed, and that process promotes public participation, legislative oversight and transparency. That is good for farmers, that is good for environmental groups, that is good for everyone.”