On Oct. 18, the Dairy Business Association settled its lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources related to regulatory overreach. DBA filed suit on July 31, claiming that the DNR was illegally regulating vegetative treatment areas, calf hutch areas and CAFO permitting.
The DBA prevailed on the central claims (VTAs and calf hutches). The DNR admitted that it overreached its legal authority, vowed to follow the proper rulemaking process and agreed to rescind a blanket change in standards for VTAs and calf hutches. In the negotiation, DBA dropped its claim that the department is illegally requiring pollution permits for large farms.
WHAT THE SETTLEMENT MEANS
Immediate relief: Farmers will be allowed to use VTAs to filter rainwater runoff from feed storage areas and the DNR will stop regulating calf hutches. This will save farmers millions of dollars in spending on new manure storage lagoons, calf hutch area improvements and calf barns.
Future certainty: The settlement will create more certainty for farmers who want to grow or make other improvements to their facilities.
Farm-specific regulation: The DNR will order changes only on a case-by-case basis if a farm’s conditions warrant.
Fairer process: Farmers have assurance that the DNR will only make rules according to the legal process, which requires public input and oversight by the Legislature.
CAFO permits: The state will continue to require discharge permits from large farms. DBA realized this claim would be the most challenging to prevail on in court even though there was sound basis.
DBA President Mike North:
“Farmers’ investments will be protected by this victory. Current practices will continue where they are working. A farm-specific approach will save farmers time and money. And we will have better and longer-lasting environmental outcomes. More than anything, this is a victory for the rule of law. The DNR and other state agencies can’t make up the rules as they go along.”