In May, the Wisconsin Dairy Alliance and Venture Dairy Cooperative filed suit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Now, the Wisconsin Farmers Union and Clean Wisconsin have filed an additional motion to intervene in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit is yet another in a slew of legal proceedings involving concentrated animal-feeding operations around the country.
However, this time, the Wisconsin Farmers Union and Clean Wisconsin intervention has warned that a victory for CAFO groups could lead to increased contamination of drinking water and surface water.
The department currently requires CAFOs (operations of over 1,000 animals) to obtain a Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit. The plaintiffs allege that the requirements are unlawful, time-consuming, and costly.
One of the chief complaints is that CAFOs must obtain a WPDES permit to discharge pollutants whether or not they actually discharge any pollutants into the waters of the state.
The other rule the organizations are challenging is that the definition outlining “agricultural stormwater discharge” is too narrow. Although the department requires permitting by CAFOs, “Agricultural stormwater discharges are statutorily exempt from WPDES permit requirements, and the Legislature has forbidden the Department from requiring a permit for such discharges,” write the plaintiffs.
Meanwhile, intervening organizations say that current regulations maintain transparency among CAFOs.
“Due to their size, these operations generate a substantial amount of manure and other pollutants. Permit requirements ensure that CAFOs adhere to standards that minimize manure runoff and water contamination,” said Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden. “They also 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.”
The outcome of the suit has the ability to impact the over 330 permitted CAFOs operating in the state.
»Related: EPA rejects call for tougher regulation of CAFOs