OPINION  The Wisconsin Dairy Alliance is urging the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Board to reject changes to the livestock-siting regulations or ATCP 51, as being recommended by department staff. Secretary-designee Brad Pfaff announced Nov. 1 that he was pulling the revisions off the board’s Nov. 7 meeting agenda.

It’s not enough to delay consideration of the proposed changes to ATCP 51. Those proposed changes would have a devastating impact on the struggling dairy industry in Wisconsin … The dairy industry has been sounding the alarm bells on those rule revisions for months and the department simply ignored us.

The dairy industry in September sent a comprehensive letter to the department outlining numerous specific concerns regarding the revisions. That should have been a strong signal to department staff that they were headed in the wrong direction. The industry letter was followed by a statement from the co-chair of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules stating he would suspend the rules if industry concerns were not addressed in the final rule. That too should have been a signal to department staff that they were heading in the wrong direction.

The final proposed rule revisions recently sent to the department board made minor improvements on the issue of setbacks but were worse in other areas. Notably the final rule removes the cap on fees that a political subdivision can charge for permits and requires farmers to provide financial assurance for roads. Additionally any new manure storage built on a new farm must meet a 1,450-foot setback. Even with the use of costly odor-mitigation practices the reduced setback will still be unworkable.

The rule has moved in the wrong direction from the beginning and continues to not be workable. That’s why an even larger coalition of opponents sent the department a letter Nov. 1 expressing strong opposition to the rule.

Pfaff’s announcement indicated that the department was listening intently to industry input and that staff were delaying rule revisions to take more time to continue discussions with industry.

Offering to delay the rule doesn’t prevent the destructive components in the revisions from remaining. Clearly the department 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 the department to listen now when they haven’t been listening to us throughout this process? It’s time for the board to reject ATCP 51 revisions.”

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Cindy Leitner is the president of the Wisconsin Dairy Alliance, which represents modern regulated dairy farms in Wisconsin and works diligently to preserve Wisconsin’s heritage as the Dairy State. Visit wisconsindairyalliance.org for more information.