‘America’s Industrial Dairy Wasteland’

Scott Dye, a Missouri farmer who works as a field coordinator for the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, said America’s Dairyland may soon have a new motto:  America’s Industrial Dairy Wasteland.

Speaking at a press conference in Green Bay on June 10, Dye and Kewaunee Cares co-founder Lynn Utesch outlined ways in which state leaders and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have let its citizens down by allowing industrial-sized dairies – which go by the euphemism of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs – to pollute Kewaunee County and Lake Michigan by not regulating and enforcing CAFO operations.

“We should not mince words about this. This is nothing short of a public health emergency,” Dye said, adding that with 80,000 cows in the county, there are four cows to every resident of Kewaunee County, making it the densest cow concentration in the state. He added that with 16 CAFOs, Kewaunee County is second only to Brown County for the number of permitted industrial operations, but in Kewaunee County they are located on the fractured bedrock of the region, which has led to the contamination of a third of the county’s wells.

The press conference was held for the release of a 140-page report called “The Rap Sheets:  Industrial Dairies of Kewaunee County – The Regulatory Failure of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, A Threat to Public Health and the Environment.”

Dye explained that the report represents more than a year of research.

“They are not our opinions,” Dye said of the contents. “They are verbatim copy from official DNR and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) documents” that show “a repeated pattern of an industry that has simply spiraled out of control and a state agency that has done nothing other than take occasional notes while raw manure continues to pour out of the CAFOs.”

Dye said the CAFO problem began in 2004 with the livestock siting law that gutted local control.

“This disastrous law must be repealed immediately,” he said.

Too often, he said, it is citizen complaints that alert the DNR to CAFO problems, rather than through DNR inspection, and those citizen complaints are “often met with open contempt by agency staff,” Dye said. “Reform must occur.”

He said the DNR must demand the personnel and financial resources to do the job that has been entrusted to the agency, with serious fines and penalties for persistent, repeat offenders. Too often, he said, government uses “all carrot and no stick” in dealing with CAFO operators.

Utesch said DNR leadership is negligent for knowing what is happening in Kewaunee County and not requesting funds or staff to deal with the problem of continued pollution of the aquifer.

“We need our political leaders to care,” he said. “The massive regulatory failure results in real people suffering with contaminated water. It’s time to start protecting the citizens rather than the polluters of our waters.”

You can read the report here,