Full-throttle agriculture’ squeezing out farmers

“When you have farmers themselves saying there’s too much milk out there, you know that’s a problem,” said Steven Deller, a University of Wisconsin-Madison agricultural economist.Now, even some farmers normally against intervention in the free market are calling for some type of supply management system to help keep things in balance.


Door County CAFO Skewered at Hearing

At a packed public hearing in the Forestville Town Hall the morning of March 2, modern industrial farming was repeatedly pitchforked for being a monster on the landscape

At a packed public hearing in the Forestville Town Hall the morning of March 2, modern industrial farming was repeatedly pitchforked for being a monster on the landscape

"Too little topsoil and too many cows, he said.

“We cannot stop them. It’s a rubber stamp down in Madison,” Swanson said. “What I want them to do is to think about what they send down that river. You cannot apply 40, 50, 60 tons of manure on four or five feet of soil and not do damage. And they know it. Farmers have known this for hundreds and hundreds of years.”

"Swanson said government is not coming to the rescue of impaired and threatened waters, so the best thing to do is to stop renting land for manure application."


One farm takes 30 years of life away from that one road. There’s no debate.

The University of Wisconsin has calculated that a 700-cow dairy would generate about 7 million gallons of manure a year. To empty a pit of that much manure with a Husky 5000 manure tanker legally loaded (about 3,340 gallons), it would take 2,071 trips up the road, Koles said.

The University of Wisconsin has calculated that a 700-cow dairy would generate about 7 million gallons of manure a year. To empty a pit of that much manure with a Husky 5000 manure tanker legally loaded (about 3,340 gallons), it would take 2,071 trips up the road, Koles said.

A well-built and maintained road should last 40 to 70 years. “That one farm takes 30 years of life away from that one road. There’s no debate. Agriculture has an impact,” he said. “I don’t say that to be negative against the ag industry; it’s negative towards our inability to develop an infrastructure that is going to support the economy that we need in towns. The problem is, we aren’t building (roads) right in the first place because of the fact that we don’t have any money. We should be spending the half-million dollars per mile to build the heavier road for that farm, but we don’t have the money to do it.” Koles thinks one thing that will help is for agriculture to kick in."


Critics say GOP skipping debate on bill deregulating wells linked to shrinking lakes

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"But Sen. Janis Ringhand said last year’s Senate debate didn’t cover new scientific findings on the way excessive pumping by farmers takes water away from others, including businesses that depend on tourists who flock to lakes and streams for fishing, boating, swimming and camping.“More evidence has been presented for the committee to discuss, particularly in the Central Sands,” Ringhand said, referring to the 1.75 million-acre region east of the Wisconsin River where a two-year state-funded study confirmed decades of research linking high-volume pumping to dwindling surface water that leaves docks high and dry and turns some lakes into fields of grass and weeds."


New Zealand declares a river a person

The law acknowledges the river as a “living whole”, rather than trying to carve it up, putting to rest an ownership dispute that has dragged on for 140 years. 

The law acknowledges the river as a “living whole”, rather than trying to carve it up, putting to rest an ownership dispute that has dragged on for 140 years. 

IT SOUNDS, admits Chris Finlayson, like a “pretty nutty” idea. Yet the new law that declares the Whanganui river, New Zealand’s third-longest, a legal person, in the sense that it can own property, incur debts and petition the courts, is not unprecedented. Te Urewera, an area of forested hills in the north-east that used to be a national park, became a person for legal purposes in 2014.


3/15 hearing kicks off permanent WI groundwater privatization

"So now the end-game in our one-party state is in sight as state power may allow big volume groundwater permits to be handed out like party favors and, if the legislation is approved, be transferred and held forever in the owners' -- not the public's --  control. Downstream neighbors, drinking water quality, effects on the environment, impacts on the water table and, through enabled, inevitable runoff into Lake Michigan -- all be damned."

Major Walker campaign donor Herb Kohler is working with the DNR on a plan to allow Kohler to turn  a 247-acre wooded/wetland/artifact-rich nature preserve into a golf course along Lake Michigan . 

Major Walker campaign donor Herb Kohler is working with the DNR on a plan to allow Kohler to turn a 247-acre wooded/wetland/artifact-rich nature preserve into a golf course along Lake Michigan


Get used to more corporate control of WI, US environment

" Records show Walker's campaign has received more than $30,000  from two of the most recent big-volume ground water permit winners.

"Records show Walker's campaign has received more than $30,000 from two of the most recent big-volume ground water permit winners.

One of the permits was granted to James Wysocki, of Bancroft, for a well located in Pine Grove in Portage County. Wysocki and several members of his family own the Wysocki Family of Companies, which operates large vegetable and dairy farms. The owners of the Wysocki Family of Companies contributed about $31,000 to Walker between January 2010 and August 2016... And GOP legislators are getting ready to further loosen high-volume well permitting procedures."


New bill has one less safeguard for Wisconsin lakes near high-powered wells

State Assembly members have dropped a provision that would have strengthened legal protections for Wisconsin waters.

State Assembly members have dropped a provision that would have strengthened legal protections for Wisconsin waters.

"Over the last decade, farmers, large animal feedlots, food processors and frac sand mine operators have driven a boom in wells that can pull at least 100,000 gallons a day from the aquifer.Lakes and streams in the state’s Central Sands region have dried up, and land owners have gone to court to allege that the state Department of Natural Resources hasn’t placed enough restrictions on water usage."


Canada to U.S. Dairy: This Is Not Our Fault

Over the past few weeks much discussion in the dairy industry has centered on trade with Canada.  On April 1, dozens of farmers in Wisconsin and Minnesota  were told by their processor that milk would no longer be picked up from their farm.

Over the past few weeks much discussion in the dairy industry has centered on trade with Canada. On April 1, dozens of farmers in Wisconsin and Minnesota were told by their processor that milk would no longer be picked up from their farm.

“We don’t feel good about U.S. farms going out of business. But you know what? It’s not our responsibility. It’s your own responsibility, as a country, to manage your production,” said Isabelle Bouchard, director of government relations for the trade group Dairy Farmers of Canada. “We are a nation of 36 million people, less than the population of California. How do you expect us to (consume) your over-supply of milk when we already produce milk for our market?”


EPA OKs state GOP exemptions for pollutors

In 2010, the state was among the first in the nation to adopt specific, measurable standards for how much phosphorous could be released into state waters.

In 2010, the state was among the first in the nation to adopt specific, measurable standards for how much phosphorous could be released into state waters.

"Progressively tighter standards under the federal Clean Water Act have reduced phosphorous pollution from industry and sewage plants. Now the majority of nutrient pollution originates on farms. Runoff is relatively inexpensive to control, but state and federal laws don’t set the same clear-cut limits for agriculture as they do for industry."Farmers are offered financial incentives for voluntary efforts such as erosion prevention, which can be accomplished by planting cover crops near stream banks or by rotating crops."


Study finds human, cattle viruses in Milwaukee River

A new study of Great Lakes basin rivers shows human viruses are more apt to be found in urban streams while bovine-related viruses show up more in streams influenced more by agriculture. And then there is the Milwaukee River. The study shows that the Milwaukee River — in both urban and rural areas — ranked among the highest for viruses linked to both humans and cows. The study underscores the river's heavy effects from farming in the northern reaches and sharply different influences as it flows toward Lake Michigan.


DNR Investigating 'Large' Manure Spill At St. Croix CAFO

Savagian said. "The storm water pond is impacted by liquid and solid manure, and the outlet has been closed to prevent additional impacts to a wetland area downstream from the storm water pond."

Savagian said. "The storm water pond is impacted by liquid and solid manure, and the outlet has been closed to prevent additional impacts to a wetland area downstream from the storm water pond."

The Department of Natural Resources says it's investigating a large manure spill in St. Croix County that happened in December but wasn't reported until March 29. The DNR reported Wednesday the spill occurred at the Emerald Sky Dairy in the Town of Emerald, which is currently permitted to have around 1,700 cows. A statement from DNR Spokesman Andrew Savagian said the agency is still investigating. Emerald Sky Dairy has been seeking a permit to expand its operations since March of 2016. The plan is to grow the dairy to 5,860 milking cows and 3,000 calves. The DNR is reviewing the permit application.


Biodynamic farming is on the rise – but how effective is this alternative agricultural practice?

Apricot Lane Farms is a 213-acre biodynamic and organic farm in Moorpark, California. The farm nurtures 100 different types of vegetables, 75 varieties of stone fruit, Scottish highland cattle, pigs, chickens, sheep, ducks, hens, horses and livestock dogs. Photograph: Apricot Lane Farms

Apricot Lane Farms is a 213-acre biodynamic and organic farm in Moorpark, California. The farm nurtures 100 different types of vegetables, 75 varieties of stone fruit, Scottish highland cattle, pigs, chickens, sheep, ducks, hens, horses and livestock dogs. Photograph: Apricot Lane Farms

Consumers need to continue to demand transparency in the food they purchase and support the brands, and the farms, that are bringing products to market in the most ecological way possible. The beautiful short term reward in all of this is that our food is only as good as the farming that stands behind it.


The Political Environment: Walker ignores State gov't, geography, hydrology, physics, etc.

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"And in 2016:  Financial penalties for violations of Wisconsin environmental laws fell sharply in 2015 to their lowest level in at least a decade. Data released by a conservation organization show forfeitures paid by individuals and companies for violating state law totaled $306,834 last year. That's down 78% from nearly $1.4 million paid out in 2014. It's also the lowest amount paid out for violations dating back to at least 2006, according to data... According to data from the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, there were no financial penalties in 2015 that involved confined animal feeding operations, which are large-scale farms also known as CAFOs that have come under fire from environmentalists."


An English Sheep Farmer’s View of Rural America

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"Our demand for cheap food is killing the American dream for millions of people. Among its side effects, it is creating terrible health problems like obesity and antibiotic-resistant infections, and it is destroying the habitats upon which wildlife depends. It also concentrates vast wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands. "After my trip to rural America, I returned to my sheep and my strangely old-fashioned life. I am surrounded by beauty, and a community, and an old way of doing things that has worked for a long time rather well. I have come home convinced that it is time to think carefully, both within America and without, about food and farming and what kind of systems we want. "The future we have been sold doesn’t work. Applying the principles of the factory floor to the natural world just doesn’t work. Farming is more than a business. Food is more than a commodity. Land is more than a mineral resource."


The Political Environment: Water is life, but not to WI GOP leaders

The Little Plover River can run dry when Big Ag's big pumps are running.

The Little Plover River can run dry when Big Ag's big pumps are running.

"Water is life," Waters wrote more than three quarters of a century ago. "It permeates everything. The hand of God drops it at birth. It trickles down the snowy peaks, the little streaks feed rito and acequia, the great rivers rise down to the sea...what is life without water?" "But as noted above, there are greedy corporations and their self-interested, thoughtless politicians who carry their water and team up to disregard the "water is life" truth -- corporations and their servants eager to grab more than their fair share of a finite supply of water and even pollute what they don't withdraw or leave behind if they rig the system in their favor."


Private green energy deal did not mean gold for UW-Oshkosh

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"Citing excessive costs and an untested infrastructure to procure organic material such as waste from farm fields, Walker killed a $250 million project at UW-Madison in 2011 that would have burned biomass to generate electricity. "In another case, a Dane County biodigester that received a $3.3 million state water quality grant to process manure from three farms near Waunakee suffered an array of operational problems, including manure spills and a methane gas explosion in 2014 before the business was taken over by new owners. "Wisconsin leads the country in the number of farm-based facilities, with 35 in operation today, according to the State Energy Office."The office has estimated that seven other sites have shut down, or are no longer operating at full capacity, as biodigesters struggle with lower electricity prices. "The systems became attractive after the Legislature in 2006 passed a bill directing utilities to supply 10% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015. That goal has been met and utilities have won permission from the state Public Service Commission to buy back power at lower, wholesale rates."Alliant Energy is currently paying an average of 9 cents per kilowatt-hour, the utility said. But for digesters whose contracts expire, generally after 10 years, the going average rate is about 3 cents per kilowatt-hour. "Other factors that made biodigesters less attractive: a drop in natural gas prices and more natural gas and wind power."


Public criticized DNR, Scott Walker over climate change scrub

"Walker, for example, has targeted DNR scientists with budget cuts because they were involved in research related to climate change and sought to reduce environmental regulations, but he seldom addresses the topic of global warming. “Once you engage on that topic you are going to displease someone,” Moynihan said."


Cattle, humans both help taint wells in Wisconsin's Kewaunee County

A Holstein steer from Kewaunee County at the Wisconsin State Fair. Cattle have a role in polluted wells in the county, as do humans, a new study says

A Holstein steer from Kewaunee County at the Wisconsin State Fair. Cattle have a role in polluted wells in the county, as do humans, a new study says

"Lee Luft, a member of the Kewaunee County Board and chairman of a county task force on groundwater, said the results will be construed as deflecting some of the criticism away from agriculture. He said, however, the study points to the region’s problems. “What we have on our hands here is a combination of problems: The ineffectiveness of some septic systems, but when there is significant groundwater recharge, what we see is a problem from bovine sources,” he said.


CAFOs: The good, the bad and the possible

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After 10 years of research in Kewaunee County, Bonness said it was obvious that “current regulations were not protecting groundwater” and recounted stories of “my water turns brown in spring and fall.” Appalling, but insufficient, Bonness said. Regulators needed documentation, hard facts, to shape the permitting of CAFOs. What she called “brown water events” occur commonly in Kewaunee County. A mixture of bovine and human excrement emanating from cow manure and discharges from septic systems combine to pollute groundwater. In October, a woman reported manure emerging from her spigot. Twenty-four hours later all the faucets in her Kewaunee County neighborhood reported manure spewing from their faucets as well. Everyone had a stake in solving the problem, Bonness said.