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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. Midwest Environmental Advocates represented Wisconsin Farmers Union to win this court decision, which affirms the DNR’s ability to protect water resources from agricultural pollution. 

Case Summary

In May 2023, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) and two factory farm groups, Wisconsin Dairy Alliance and Venture Dairy Cooperative, filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. 

The groups argued the DNR had no authority to require factory concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to apply for water pollution permits, a change that would have eliminated the main source of environmental oversight of factory farms in Wisconsin. 

MEA quickly intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of Wisconsin Farmers Union, and together with Clean Wisconsin, we participated in the case to protect water resources and the health and wellbeing of rural communities.

A single livestock facility can house thousands of animals and generate more waste than a small city. Without DNR oversight, it would be nearly impossible to obtain information about where these facilities dispose of the massive amount of manure they produce. 

In January 2024, a Calumet County Circuit Court rejected WMC’s reckless attempt to eliminate environmental oversight of the state’s largest livestock facilities. The ruling affirms the state’s authority to continue doing what it has been doing for decades—requiring large livestock facilities to apply for permits under Wisconsin’s water pollution permitting program. 

Darin Von Ruden

Wisconsin Farmers Union

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