The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has opened a comment period on the Livestock Facility Siting Law (ATCP 51). Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation is encouraging farmers to submit online comments on the proposed changes by the September 13 deadline.

“The proposed changes raise some major concerns for farming families who wish to expand or new farmers looking to build,” said WFBF President Jim Holte. “The proposed changes are unworkable for many farming families.”

The changes came from DATCP’s technical expert committee, a group that does not include any farmers, Holte said.

Naomi Berstein, an agricultural engineer with Insight FS, wrote on the Farm Bureau Federation blog:

As an agricultural engineer, I see many red flags with the proposed changes that Wisconsin farmers should be aware of. One of the most glaring issues is the setbacks from property lines.

To highlight what this proposed rule could mean to livestock farmers, I’d like to share an example from a farm that currently has its livestock siting permit. This customer’s livestock facility sits on a 69-acre parcel. Under a 600-foot setback from property lines, the farm would have a 65-foot wide area of land in the middle of their property to place manure storage – an area too small to construct a waste storage system. Without this system, the farm would have had to haul manure every other day and apply said manure outside preferred nutrient stewardship practices.

What’s more is the timelines for implementation outlined in the proposal would not have allowed this farm to undergo its gradual expansion. This farm constructed and began populating its permitted facility with the intention of adding a manure storage system in the future. It’s difficult to secure financing for these systems and with uncertain commodity markets, they wanted the flexibility to add the system when they were ready and financially able to do so. However, the proposal would require all construction and population to be started within two years. This isn’t a realistic timeline for the construction process, despite financial or weather-related hurdles that may warrant multiple phases of construction.

This example only begins to address the many concerns I see with the proposed revisions to ATCP 51. There are other items that are inconsistent with existing regulations, impractical in application and that broaden local control. The livestock siting law was enacted to provide a fair and predictable framework for livestock facilities of all sizes, but this proposal deviates from that intent.

Farmers and rural residents who wish to comment on the proposed changes can do so online by visiting https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/feedback/agencyform?cite=cr/2019/98 or via U.S. Postal Service by sending written comments to DATCP-ARM, P.O. Box 8911, Madison, WI 53708.