WI dairy farm can continue to expand responsibly
November 7, 2014 by Press release
November 7, 2014, Green Bay, WI – The Dairy Business Association (DBA) is pleased that after protracted litigation, Kinnard Farms, a family-run dairy farm in Kewaunee County, is being permitted to expand without changes to its facility designs or nutrient management plan.
The Kinnard brothers can continue to build upon the successful example set by their parents who started the dairy farm in 1946 with 14 cows. The farm has already grown to support three generations of the family. They now milk more than 700 cows, which by law classifies their farm as a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). This designation subjects Kinnard Farms to some of the most stringent regulations in the country and requires them to obtain a permit to continue operating.
In 2012, the Kinnard family sought to renew that permit and expand their farm again. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued them a permit, but a handful of local residents challenged the permit with the assistance of the Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA). In a decision issued in early November 2014, Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey Boldt ruled that the permit can stand with only minor changes. He found that MEA failed to meet its burden on most of the issues it raised.
“CAFOs like Kinnard Farms are far more regulated than other farms in Wisconsin,” explained Laurie Fischer, DBA’s director of dairy policy. “Most farms are subject to much less regulation and they cannot be forced to comply unless they are given financial assistance from the state of Wisconsin. We are left with a small group CAFOs that must follow all kinds of regulation while the vast majority of farms aren’t being held to any standards.”
“The question is whether the public is willing to spend money to help farmers bring their environmental protections up to the level already observed by CAFOs.”
Judge Boldt’s decision highlighted just a small part of what Kinnard Farms is doing to protect the environment, particularly water quality. For example, the Kinnards proposed a vegetative treatment area that far exceeds state or federal standards to prevent runoff or nutrient leaching. Through careful nutrient management, they are also able to remove more phosphorus from the environment than they apply to fields.
The decision does call on DNR to cap the maximum number of animals the farm can have during the permit period and it also calls for groundwater monitoring on the farm.
“It is unclear how the animal unit cap will help improve groundwater quality since all manure must be accounted for regardless of how many animals are on the farm,” said the DBA’s Laurie Fischer. “MEA accomplished nothing with this litigation. It would be great if it would spend just a fraction of what it does suing large, heavily regulated farms to help the less regulated improve on protecting the environment. Then, we could really see some significant improvements in groundwater quality.”