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Land & water conservation

Agriculture

Agricultural land use has a major impact on human health and the environment. We advocate for land use policies and commonsense regulations that protect water quality and the health and wellbeing of Wisconsin’s rural communities.

our Agriculture work

LEGAL ACTION

Challenging an Illegal Settlement Between the DNR and Big Ag

After the DNR negotiated a backroom deal with one of Wisconsin’s largest dairy operations, MEA took legal action to ensure government transparency and prevent the rollback of important environmental protections.

LEGAL ACTION

Preserving Environmental Oversight of Large Livestock Facilities

In January 2024, a Calumet County Circuit Court rejected a reckless attempt by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and factory farm groups to eliminate environmental oversight of the state’s largest livestock facilities. The court’s decision affirms the DNR’s ability to protect water resources from agricultural pollution. 

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LEGAL ACTION

Defending the Authority of Local Governments to Regulate Large Livestock Operations

A growing number of local governments in Wisconsin have enacted ordinances that regulate how large livestock operations (CAFOs) operate. MEA partners with community members and local jurisdictions to provide legal support and to defend the authority of local governments from industry pushback. 

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LEGAL ACTION

Protecting Drinking Water in Portage County

Portage County residents represented by MEA challenged a wastewater discharge permit issued to Gordondale Farms because the permit did not do enough to protect local drinking water. Our legal challenge led to a permit modification that required Gordondale to install groundwater monitoring wells near fields where the farm spreads large amounts of manure. 

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LEGAL ACTION

Standing Up to Corporate Intimidation of Local Elected Officials

When Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and industry lobbyists threatened Polk County officials with criminal charges over efforts to protect their water, MEA helped them stand their ground and speak out against efforts to intimidate them.

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LEGAL ACTION

Challenging Kinnard Farms Wastewater Permit

In 2022, the Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed the authority of the DNR to protect rural drinking water by setting limits on expansion and requiring large livestock operations to monitor groundwater. 


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POLICY & ADVOCACY

Updating Wisconsin’s Livestock Facility Siting Law

A one-size-fits-all approach to licensing large livestock facilities isn’t working for rural communities, especially those facing real health threats of decreasing air quality, contamination of drinking wells, degraded streams from manure runoff, and increased truck traffic hauling manure to fields.

LEGAL ACTION

Protecting Door County from Agricultural Pollution

S & S Jerseyland Dairy, a large livestock operation in Door County, is seeking a permit to expand to approximately 10,000 dairy cows. The proposal endangers local public health and water resources.

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LEGAL ACTION

Defending the State’s Ability to Regulate High-Capacity Wells

MEA represented the Central Sands Water Action Coalition as a friend of the court in a case involving the DNR’s authority to consider the cumulative impact of high-capacity wells when it issues water-withdrawal permits. After years of litigation, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a decision in July 2021 affirming that authority.

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latest news

Agriculture Updates

DNR Limits Future Expansion of Door County CAFO After Community Outcry

The DNR has finalized a wastewater discharge permit that limits the expansion of Door County’s only CAFO. S & S Jerseyland Dairy had been seeking a permit to more than double in size, from 5,000 to approximately 10,000 cows. The final permit, which limits future expansion to half the number of animals proposed by S & S, represents a significant improvement over an earlier draft version that drew widespread criticism

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MEA Clients Announce Legal Settlement Requiring Kewaunee County Livestock Facility to Stop Spreading Liquid Manure

Today, six Kewaunee County residents represented by MEA announced a settlement with Kinnard Farms, Inc. and the Wisconsin DNR in a legal dispute over Kinnard’s wastewater permit. The operation—one of the largest CAFOs in the state—has agreed to withdraw a legal challenge to the permit and to install processing technology designed to eliminate the disposal of liquid manure on agricultural fields.

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Agriculture resources

MEA GUIDE

CAFO Guide for Wisconsin Communities

MEA WEBINAR (Feb 2023)

CAFO Regulation Webinar