By Jodi Parins, Mick Sagrillo, Dick Swanson and Lynn Utesch

Guest columnists

We are compelled to correct the commentary recently provided by Wisconsin Dairy Business Association’s John Holevoet who proudly yet inaccurately boasted “I am the powerful dairy lobby.”   All of us served on the DNR/Kewaunee County workgroups that were designed to be the democracy in action Holevoet mentioned.  Those workgroups served as the basis for the new DNR manure spreading regulations.  Some of us work at the town and county level developing and enforcing similar regulations.  Our combined experience with WDBA is extensive.

The recent exposure of WDBA’s back-room influence in the governor’s office is repugnant to the average citizen. However, their efforts fit this powerful lobbying group’s pattern of employing questionable tactics to avoid any changes that could in any way impact their members regardless of proven need.  We saw the same happen with the manure spreading regulations we worked on so diligently and transparently. 

WDBA’s methods should be repugnant to the average farmer as well for one very important reason – the new regulations originally recommended in 2017 were intended to apply to farmers of all sizes located in the highly contaminant-susceptible areas of the counties.  The DNR Workgroup agreed to include the multi-thousand cow operations generating millions of gallons of liquid manure spread across thousands of acres, not just the family farm milking 40 head and spreading daily on their 80 acres.   What WDBA did in that case was get the administration to exempt the CAFOs from the regulations that only the small farmer must now follow.  For the WDBA to take pride in leaving the burden solely on the farm families, who are the backbone of our community, is reprehensible.

The WDBA and the large CAFOs participated in the DNR workgroups.  During those meetings they had the opportunity to democratically plead their case and obtain that exemption for CAFOs.   When they could not sway the others in the workgroups to concede, it appears they simply applied their now-exposed strategy of back-room politics to get CAFOs exempted from the new rules.

Arrogance is nothing new at WDBA.  They bragged on their own website about authoring the Livestock Siting regulation that stripped townships of any local control over the large operations.  When the Town of Lincoln wanted to ban the proposed use of spray irrigation of manure, WDBA brought legal action against the town.  WDBA lost, but the action cost the town over $14,000 – a drop in the bucket to an organization that actually spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence politicians.  WDBA sent a similarly threatening letter to Kewaunee County Board supervisors when they were set to vote on winter spreading prohibitions.  They attempted to sway the members by calling the proposed ordinance “illegal.”  That statement was false.  This is the same group that is now proudly using the same questionable tactics to influence an ill-advised shift of CAFO oversight to DATCP, another in their history of misguided and misleading efforts.

Contrary to Holevoet’s inference that WDBA is a friend to all farmers, their numerous actions over the past decade say something else entirely.  Their friends are the “businesses” in the Wisconsin Dairy “Business” group; their friends are in the current administration. They can be proud of that if they want, but to suggest they are somehow a champion for small farmers or rural communities?  That’s just another load of bull manure.

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Jodi Parins, Town of Lincoln, Mick Sagrillo, Town of Lincoln, Dick Swanson, Algoma, and Lynn Utesch, Town of Pierce, were members of the Kewaunee County and Department of Natural Resources workgroups that developed recommendations to protect Kewaunee County groundwater. This is an opinion column and should not be construed as representing the views of the Kewaunee County Comet.