Four environmental and agricultural groups have formed a coalition they say will advocate for meaningful state-level policy changes that support clean water and resilient farms.
Clean Wisconsin, the Dairy Business Association, The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association.
“The challenges facing our drinking water and farming community demand innovative solutions. While not always on the same side of policy debates, our groups have had a long history of advocating for these issues,” said Mark Redsten, president & CEO of Clean Wisconsin. “We’re working together because it’s time we rethink how we protect our water while supporting our farmers.”
The partnering groups outlined four guiding principles as they push for policy changes:
+ Ensuring clean drinking water, including expanded well testing and funding for well replacement and treatment.
+ Reimagining the CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations) program to make the permitting system more effective while also meeting conservation standards, providing assistance to farmers and better ensuring compliance.
+ Supporting farmers’ current conservation efforts and fostering innovation.
+ Improving Wisconsin’s current program for addressing nonpoint pollution from agricultural sources, which the groups’ statement says has never been fully implemented or properly funded.
“We all value clean water and we all want economically and environmentally resilient farms. Our groups recognize that caring for both is a shared responsibility,” said Tom Crave, president of the Dairy Business Association. “Farmers are problem-solvers, and every day we are seeing more and more innovative conservation practices that protect and improve water quality around the state. Moving forward together with others who share this commitment will accelerate progress.”
“As the world’s population increases, finding ways to produce more food while protecting clean water will only become more challenging,” said Elizabeth Koehler, director of The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin. “Given Wisconsin’s prominent role in agriculture, our state will be an important part of the solution, and collaboration across the public, private and nonprofit sectors will be critical.”
In making the announcement, the groups said agricultural and environmental issues have been addressed as standalone issues, and policy disagreements have often led to conflicts and inaction on those issues. As partners, they hope to change how the state approaches drinking water protection and farmer support.
“We can all agree that the status quo isn’t working for water in Wisconsin, nor agriculture,” said Matt Krueger, executive director of the Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association. “Now, more than ever, there is real opportunity — and need — to develop a sustainable vision for both going forward.”
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