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Wisconsin DNR Looks To Expand CAFO Permit Staff

Environmental Groups Support Adding Staff To The Growing Program

Waterkeeper Alliance (CC-BY-NC-ND)

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wants to move four full-time staff to regulating concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

In their 2017-19 biennial budget request, the DNR proposes increasing staff dedicated to the CAFO program from 17 to 21 by reallocating positions.

The agency declined an interview for this story, but their request cites significant growth in the number of CAFOs in the state, with around 285 permitted CAFOs currently operating.

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The department said the move would also improve “responsiveness to public concerns about health and water quality impacts.”

Environmental advocates in the state praised the department for addressing the issue.

“We’re really glad that they’re hearing that message loud and clear from Wisconsinites and from the citizens who know that clean drinking water is a right,” said Amber Meyer Smith, director of programs and government relations for Clean Wisconsin.

Sarah Geers, staff attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates, said she agrees more staff are needed to regulate CAFO permits.

“Especially given some of the water quality problems that people around the state are experiencing,” Geers said, but added, “We have some concerns, though, that (the request) doesn’t go far enough, and it’s unclear where they’re reallocating staff from.”

Smith also expressed concern that taking staff away from another DNR program could create a new set of problems.

“We just hope that in doing that, they’re not just exacerbating shortages in other areas,” Smith said.

The DNR’s request goes to the Gov. Scott Walker, who will submit a budget to the Legislature by the end of January.