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Manure Irrigation Committee Says No Hearing But Plenty Of Discussion Ahead

Environmental Attorney Worries Greater Focus On Science Might Not Materialize


Members of a committee that issued a report on aerial spraying of manure are defending a decision not to have a public hearing on the document.

The Manure Irrigation Work Group released findings last month that look at the pluses and minuses of using gun-like devices or overhead sprayers to disperse cow waste onto farm fields.

During a followup webinar on Monday, work group chairman Ken Genskow, of the University of Wisconsin-Extension, responded to a question about the lack of a public hearing on the report by saying the panel has no authority to set policy.

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“I think we have an authority regarding insight on the topic. But we wanted to make it clear that the decisions about these issues and how they play out locally and across the state are going to be made by local and state-level elected officials,” he said.

Attorney Tressie Kamp, of Midwest Environmental Advocates, said the public might not get a chance to thoroughly review and comment on the science during any later rule-making on manure irrigation. Kamp also said the report shouldn’t become a green light for more manure spraying because the main health concern studied was disease-causing pathogens.

“But a lot of people — neighbors of these larger farm operations — are concerned about odor or air quality. This report didn’t really touch on that,” she said.

A microbiologist on the panel says pathogens were the main concern when the study was launched three years ago, but he said another scientist gathered data on ammonia, which has an odor irritating to many people and is analyzing the results.