After unanimous support from individuals and groups representing both agriculture and conservation, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board (NRB) on Jan. 24 approved new manure-spreading rules to increase groundwater protection across 15 counties with karst geology in eastern Wisconsin.
“I have never seen such full-throated support for environmental protections as I saw today from Wisconsin agriculture, including farmers, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, Wisconsin Pork Producers, and the Wisconsin Association of Professional Agriculture Consultants,” said Jim VandenBrook, executive director of Wisconsin Land+Water. VandenBrook provided comments to the Natural Resources Board in support of the rule revisions, which the board adopted on a unanimous roll-call vote.
Among the changes in NR 151 for the 15-county region are:
- Prohibits the application of manure within 250 feet of a well.
- Restrictions on when, how and how much manure is applied.
- Prohibits manure application on areas with less than two feet of soil above bedrock.
“I think it went very well,” said Rep. Joel Kitchens, who has led the rule changes in the state Legislature. “There was no one that was opposed to it. Sure, both sides have things they would like to see more strict or less strict, but I think it strikes a very good balance. We had ag groups speaking in favor of it as well as conservation groups. My challenge from here will be to get it through the legislature without any changes.”
Kitchens said he feels confident that will happen in the Assembly, but he has less contact with state senators.
“I don’t know them as well,” Kitchens said about the Senate. “But I feel good about it. That will be my work.”
Kitchens’ testimony before the NRB pointed out that his biggest concern now is how the rules are implemented.
“There is a variance process, especially for those small farmers in Northern Door where there simply is not land there for them to use,” he said. “I think if common sense and creativity are used, I think we can allow them to continue and still protect our groundwater. I just hope it’s implemented properly. Common sense and creativity are not exactly things you can write into law.”