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CAFOs In Northeastern Wisconsin Look To Expand; Farms Seek Permit Renewal

DNR Looks To Approve Added CAFO Despite Concern Over Well Contamination

Dairy Dreams Farm
Dairy Dreams, a local dairy farm in Kewaunee County. Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

Two large farms in northeastern Wisconsin are seeking permit renewals from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and three are looking to expand, one of which is looking to expand to the point that it will be considered a concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO.

People on both sides turned out for an informational hearing Tuesday in Kewaunee County. At least 110 people registered at the hearing in the town of Luxemburg.

Half were seemingly in favor of the permits and expansions, the other half were concerned about water quality and truck traffic.

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CAFOs are a big issue locally because private wells have been contaminated. Brown and Kewaunee counties are together home to 34 CAFOs.

Sand Way Farms LLC in southeastern Brown County is asking for permit approval to expand its farm from 1,045 animal units to 1,258 animal units, making it a CAFO. Wisconsin has 296 CAFOs, most of them focused on dairy production.

The Sand Way is in the Village of Denmark and neighbors Kewaunee County, which has its share of CAFOs and complaints about private wells contaminated with E-coli.

Sand Way is one of three farms in northeastern Wisconsin asking the DNR to let them expand their dairy herds.

The other two farms seeking approval are:

  • Kinnard Farms LLC, of Casco. The farm in Kewaunee County is seeking to increase its herd from 10,060 animal units to 12,860.
  • Wakker Dairy Farm Inc., of Kewaunee. The farm in Kewaunee County is looking to increase its heard from 3,123 animal units to 4,612.

The two farms seeking permit renewal are:

  • Dairy Dreams LLC, of Casco, in Kewaunee County.
  • Seidl Mountain View Dairy, of the Town of Luxemburg, in Kewaunee County.

Farms must get their state permits updated every five years.

Tom Bauman, the DNR’s coordinator for the CAFO Permit Program, said DNR staff have already gone over the applications.

“Onsite inspections of all of the facilities were conducted by the department staff in 2017,” Bauman said. “The nutrient management plans were reviewed and approved by the department based on farm expectations and review of permit application materials.”

Bauman indicated prospects look good for the applicants, “The facilities are eligible for re-issuance and issuance.”

Bauman said the permit renewals have to do with water quality protection farms must adhere to.

Due to the Karst geology of northeastern Wisconsin, the groundwater is shallow, making water quality and pollution a real concern for area residents. Many residents use bottled water due to well contamination.

Besides concerns about water quality and health, residents are frustrated about how manure is transported and the amount of water used for so many animals.

Gary Pape, the chair of the Town of Ahnapee in Kewaunee County, isn’t against large-scale farming, but he isn’t happy with the proposed expansions.

“Our town roads, the land, the water supply can’t sustain more volume until we have a solution we can all work with,” Pape said. “We all know we need the farmers but we have to work together.”

Others at the informational hearing spoke in favor of the large farms.

Benjamin Koss, a crop advisor who works with Dairy Dreams LLC and Wakker Dairy Farm, said large-scale agriculture and rural life go hand-in-hand.

“The public has to realize that their food, where their food comes from. From time to time they might have to put up with some road traffic and some odors,” Koss said. “I do not believe the odors are overwhelming nor do they permeate for long periods of time.”

The public has until Dec. 5 to submit written comments to the DNR regarding the permit renewals.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify Kewaunee County has 14 CAFOs and Brown County has 20.