Livestock Siting Law upheld


Big agriculture groups are claiming victory in a State Supreme Court ruling involving Wisconsin’s Livestock Siting Law. But critics say they’re concerned about more water pollution.

The livestock siting law was passed eight years ago to set standards for local governments if they want to create permits for new and expanded livestock operations. The town of Magnolia in Rock County attached some conditions aimed at reducing water pollution to a permit granted for the Larson Acres Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, or CAFO. But Larson Acres objected to the conditions, eventually winning at the state Court of Appeals. The state Supreme Court has ruled 5 to 2 in favor of the CAFO. Paul Zimmerman of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation says the decision is a huge win for Wisconsin’s livestock industry.

He says while the Larson Acres case has been in the courts, 23 counties and more than 40 townships have adopted the state livestock siting standards and issued more than 70 permits. Zimmerman says local units of government still have the ability to make sure permits are followed. But attorney Christa Westerberg, who represents neighbors critical of the Larson Acres expansion, says water pollution remains a concern.

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Westerberg also says the state DNR doesn’t have much oversight over smaller CAFOs, and lacks staff to enforce pollution laws. Westerberg hopes the legislature adjusts the livestock siting law, but the Farm Bureau says the law works fine.