FILE - Wisconsin dairy farm

Wisconsin dairy farm

One of Wisconsin's largest dairy groups says it still doesn't trust the state's agriculture department or its plans for dairymen in the state. 

The Wisconsin Dairy Alliance on Monday said it is not enough that the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade & Consumer Protection is delaying a vote on siting rules that would change how local governments control farmland. The Dairy Alliance wants the proposed rules killed. 

“These proposed changes would have a devastating impact on the struggling dairy industry in Wisconsin and we urge the DATCP Board to reject them at their meeting on Thursday, November 7th," WDA President Cindy Leitner said. "The dairy industry has been sounding the alarm bells on these rule revisions for months, and DATCP simply ignored us.” 

The proposed rules, officially known as changes to ATCP 51, would have local governments give more emphasis to environmental concerns during the siting process for farm expansion, and require farmers to put any manure collection facilities further away from roads or neighbors. 

On Friday, the DATCP announced it would not be voting on the rules at this Thursday's meeting.

"We listened intently to input from the public and industry stakeholders on this rule. The DATCP Board has also showed strong interest in this topic, and we appreciate their willingness to move ahead on the public engagement process,” acting DATCP Secretary Brad Pfaff said in a statement. “Since holding public hearings earlier this year, the department has held ongoing, constructive meetings with stakeholders on this complex rule. Given the tremendous importance of our dairy and livestock industries to the state of Wisconsin, we’ve decided to take more time to continue these discussions.”

But opponents of the plan don't want more time. They want the clock to stop on the proposal. 

State Rep. Gary Tauchen, R-Bonduel, said farmers and dairymen across Wisconsin have been clear for months, and will be clear in the future, they don't want the rules to change.

"[This] announcement on ATCP 51 provides the Department an opportunity to listen to and collaborate with farmers, agricultural leaders and stakeholders," Tauchen said. "I strongly encourage DATCP to consider and adopt input to find a final product that will truly encourage, as originally intended, ‘growth and viability of animal agriculture in this state,’ but remains ‘protective of public health’.”

Leitner is going even further. She wrote in an open letter that DATCP has been paying lip service to “listening" without addressing the volume of issues in the rule identified by the collective Ag groups in the state.

“Why should the dairy industry trust DATCP to listen now when they haven’t been listening to us throughout this process?” Leitner asked. “It’s time for the DATCP Board to reject ATCP 51 revisions!”

The DATCP is not saying when regulators may act on ATCP 51. 
 
 

Staff Reporter

An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.