The vice chair of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board says he's confident the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is committed to reducing water pollution problems caused by manure runoff and that a formal proposal to do so is coming soon.
Vice Chair Dr. Frederick Prehn has been monitoring the work of a technical advisory committee set up by the DNR in October 2016 to discuss potential changes in state rules. He said he expects a draft proposal to be ready in a month or two that will be available for public review and input.
The changes are likely to address targeted performance standards for farmers in areas of the state with bedrock particularly vulnerable to groundwater contamination.
Prehn expects the DNR's proposal to focus on the "four Rs" of fertilizer management — the right rate of manure spreading, the right timing, the right source — such as the type of fertilizer or material to deliver nutrients — and the right place to apply the manure to minimize the impact on waterways.
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Prehn updated the board on the committee's progress at its Wednesday meeting. He later told WPR, "This is a big deal. This is how the farmers and CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) will apply their manure as a by-product of their operations, where they're going to apply it, how much and when."
Environmental groups and citizen coalitions, especially in Kewaunee County, have been pushing for reforms.
"We can debate why it took so long to get here, but the bottom line is once the governor and DNR recognized this is a problem, we can't ignore any longer, it got on a fast pace," Prehn said.
The board is scheduled to vote on a rule package in December and forward the changes to the state Legislature for its review, Prehn said.