Dairy group files suit against DNR over its powers

Posted at 1:15 p.m. on August 6, 2017

The Brillion News

GREEN BAY – The Dairy Business Association is asking the courts to rein in the state Department of Natural Resources for overreaching its legal authority on key regulations affecting dairy farms.

The group filed a lawsuit, on July 31 in Brown County Circuit Court, against the DNR.

It centers on how the agency implements new regulations without going through an approval process required by state law.

The lawsuit deals specifically with one example of this pattern of unlawful behavior: changes to how farmers manage rainwater that comes into contact with feed storage or calf hutch areas. Those changes, in which the DNR abruptly abandoned its own earlier directives, are causing costly fixes and still more uncertainty for farmers.

“We’re not looking for a free pass on regulations. We’re asking the DNR to follow the rules,” said Mike North, president of the association. “The agency clearly is overstepping its legal boundaries on this and other issues.”

For years, the DNR encouraged farmers to build what are called vegetative treatment areas (VTAs) where the water is safely and naturally treated to prevent runoff and protect water quality. In 2016, the agency suddenly did an about-face and began requiring farmers to collect all the water and add it to manure pits for spreading on fields.

The move circumvented Act 21, which requires agencies to follow a specific method of rulemaking based on public transparency and lawmaker oversight. The lawsuit seeks to stop DNR’s ongoing efforts to skirt the formal rulemaking process.

“Farmers are not above the law. The Department of Natural Resources shouldn’t be either,” North said.

See a comprehensive story on this issue in the August 10 print edition of The Brillion News.

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