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Governor Evers Vetoes Anti-Local Control Bill

 More than 40 community groups across Wisconsin are celebrating Governor Evers veto of an anti-local control bill sent to him by the legislature. Assembly Bill 957 struck at the bedrock of the state’s democracy – local control. Evers vetoed the bill March 29, 2024.

 “While this legislation specifically targeted local control over livestock, it was designed to have widespread implications,” said Mary Dougherty, from Socially Responsible Agriculture Project. “Local control is the foundation of Wisconsin’s democracy. Our system was created to place decision-making authority at the level of government closest to the people impacted by those decisions.”

 Senator Romaine Quinn (R-25) was one of the bill’s lead authors. Quinn made it very clear during a March 5, 2024 Senate hearing that Wisconsin’s industrial agriculture lobby wants to preempt legal ordinances passed by local leaders working to protect the public health and property values.

 Quinn’s bill stripped power from local communities left defenseless against large livestock factories by weak state laws and enforcement. Local ordinances require livestock operations to address concerns about diminished property values, road damage from thousands of trucks hauling manure and air pollution.

 Lobbyists from Wisconsin Farm Bureau and Venture Dairy Cooperative have repeatedly asked state legislators to prohibit legal livestock ordinances passed in three Wisconsin counties and six towns. More towns in multiple counties are studying similar ordinances.

“We know these lobbyists well,” said Lisa Doerr, a farmer from Polk County, WI who helped develop town ordinances. “For years they’ve been telling us that local ordinances are illegal. Their attempt to preempt local control proves what we knew, our ordinances are legal.”

 At the same time these lobbyists are looking to stop local control in the legislature, their lawyers are challenging Wisconsin DNR’s authority to regulate livestock operations that spread millions of gallons of raw manure over thousands of acres of land. 

 “Quinn’s legislation is part of a multi-year strategy for livestock factories with one goal – no regulation!” said Dougherty. “We’ve seen Governor Evers’ ongoing support for local governments in Wisconsin — most recently with the shared revenue, water quality and fair maps legislation. Hundreds of people across Wisconsin asked Governor Evers to protect our local control and he did!”

Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network is a statewide coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to preserving the health and economic vitality of rural communities. www.sustainruralwisconsin.org

Press Release: Midwest Environmental Advocates and Wisconsin Farmers Union
For immediate release: January 30, 2024
Contact: Peg Sheaffer, Midwest Environmental Advocates, psheaffer@midwestadvocates.org

Circuit Court Rejects Attempt by WMC and Factory Farm Groups to Eliminate Environmental Oversight of Wisconsin’s Largest Livestock Operations

Decision Affirms State’s Ability to Protect Water Resources and Public Health from Agricultural Pollution

Madison, WI—Today, a Calumet County Circuit Court rejected a reckless attempt to eliminate environmental oversight of the state’s largest livestock facilities.

The lawsuit was filed in May 2023 against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce on behalf of Wisconsin Dairy Alliance and Venture Dairy Cooperative, lobbying groups that represent the interests of large livestock facilities known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

The lobbying groups alleged the DNR lacked the authority to require large livestock operations to apply for permits under Wisconsin’s water pollution permitting program.

In an oral ruling issued during a hearing today, Judge Carey J. Reed rejected that argument, citing Wisconsin Statute section 283.001(1).
According to the statute, “It is the policy of this state to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of its waters to protect public health, safeguard fish and aquatic life and scenic and ecological values, and to enhance the domestic, municipal, recreational, industrial, agricultural, and other uses of water.”

Wisconsin Farmers Union—represented by nonprofit law firm Midwest Environmental Advocates—joined Clean Wisconsin in intervening in the lawsuit in order to protect water resources and the health and well-being of rural communities.

MEA Staff Attorney Adam Voskuil said, “We are pleased that the circuit court upheld longstanding clean water protections and rejected this reckless lawsuit. The court correctly found that the state has the explicit legal authority to protect Wisconsin’s water resources. The claims advanced by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and their clients would have exposed rural Wisconsinites and small family farmers to illegal manure discharges, polluting their drinking water and Wisconsin’s rivers and lakes.”

In the past two decades, CAFOs have come to represent an increasing percentage of Wisconsin’s livestock industry. In 2005, there were 135 permitted CAFOs operating in the state. Today, there are more than 330. A single dairy CAFO can house thousands of cows and generate more waste than a small city.

“This ruling not only upholds critical clean water protections, but also reinforces the imperative of responsible practices in agriculture,” said Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden. “The current rules create transparency and ensure that CAFOs are accountable, not only to regulators, but also to their neighbors, who have a right to know that CAFOs are operating responsibly.”

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Wisconsin Farmers Union is a member-driven organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for family
farmers, rural communities, and all people through education opportunities, cooperative endeavors, and civic
engagement. Learn more at www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com.
Midwest Environmental Advocates is committed to supporting Wisconsinites in their efforts to protect their
communities from agricultural pollution by providing legal services, technical assistance, education and
networking support. Learn more at www.midwestadvocates.org.

DID YOU KNOW?

Supporting our service members doesn’t stop once they leave the military. That’s why President Biden signed the PACT Act into law on August 10, 2022, expanding critical health care and benefits for American veterans and their families.

  • The PACT Act is the most significant expansion of VA health care in 30 years. It expands access to VA health care for more than 3.5 million combat veterans exposed to toxins during their military service and delivers critical resources to the VA to ensure that veterans can access the care and benefits they need.
  • Since the PACT Act became law, approximately 66,000 screenings for toxic exposure have been done in Wisconsin, ensuring that tens of thousands of Wisconsin veterans can receive the care they earned.

In 2022, every Wisconsin Republican in the House of Representatives voted against the PACT Act—and against Wisconsin veterans.

 

On August 9, 2022, President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law, making historic investments that position U.S. workers, communities, and businesses to compete and win in the economy of tomorrow.

  • The CHIPS and Science Act is already going to work in Wisconsin. Senator Baldwin secured development funding for two Wisconsin organizations through the Chips and Science Act that will support Wisconsin jobs and spur innovation right here in the Badger State.
  • With smart investments to strengthen American manufacturing and supply chains, and additional funding for technological research and development, the CHIPS and Science Act is helping American workers and companies to flourish, not just today, but for decades to come.

In 2022, every Wisconsin Republican in Congress voted against the CHIPS and Science Act.

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