DBA Files Suit Against DNR Claiming Regulatory Over Reach

A Wisconsin-based farm group has filed a lawsuit against the state’s natural resources department this week, claiming the agency has been implementing new regulations without going through an approval process required by state law. On Tuesday, the Dairy Business Association filed paperwork in Brown County Circuit Court. In its brief, the organization said it specifically dislikes the DNR’s policy change on how farmers manage rainwater that comes into contact with feed storage or calf hutch areas.

In a conference call with farm reporters on Wednesday, DBA President Mike North said the DNR once encouraged farmers to build vegetative treatment areas, or VTAs, where the water is treated to prevent runoff and protect water quality. But last year, it suddenly began requiring farmers to collect all the water and add it to manure pits for spreading on fields.

“The VTA issue was not necessary the thrust that led to this lawsuit, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” North told the ag media. “For years, the DNR has gone too far in developing rules for farms that it didn’t have the right to implement. We tried diplomatically to solve this problem, but got nowhere.”

DBA Governmental Affairs Director John Holevoet added that about 100 members of his group have been impacted by the new policy. As a result, the lawsuit seeks to stop DNR’s ongoing efforts to skirt the formal rulemaking process, as specified in the Act 21 legislation signed by Governor Scott Walker in 2011.

“Farmers are not above the law. The Department of Natural Resources shouldn’t be either,” North said.

DBA leadership feels the reversal on VTAs is causing farmers to spend millions of dollars on new storage lagoons and calf hutch improvements. And during periods of low milk prices, that makes it difficult for individual operations to survive in an already difficult farm economy.

Meanwhile, the suit also addresses a farm’s right to apply for permits. Despite a state law that binds the DNR to federal standards, North says the DNR has incorrectly adopted its own contradictory requirement.


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