MADISON — Just two weeks after the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Board met via teleconference to preview changes made to ATCP51, which outlines the state’s livestock siting regulations, the agency has decided it will no longer move forward with proposed changes to the controversial set of rules.
The decision comes after 12 public hearings were held around the state, in which hundreds of people turned out to provide testimony. The DATCP board was set to vote on the changes at their Nov. 7 meeting, but instead heard that the agency wasn’t quite ready to send the proposed changes to the legislature for their review.
“Since holding public hearings earlier this year, the department has held ongoing, constructive meetings with stakeholders on this complex rule. Given the tremendous importance of our dairy and livestock industries to the state of Wisconsin, we’ve decided to take more time to continue these discussions,” said now former DATCP secretary-designee Brad Pfaff.
Pfaff, whose appointment was rejected by the State Senate Nov. 5, added that he’s extremely proud of the time and effort the department put into the rule considerations, along with the board’s interest and willingness to allow the public engagement process to proceed.
Industry organizations, such as the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, expressed their support for Pfaff’s call for additional time and consideration of ATCP51.
“Secretary-designee Pfaff recognizes the economic hardship and other challenges faced by our partners in the dairy farming community, and he has done the right thing in calling for additional time and consideration of livestock siting regulations,” said John Umhoefer, WCMA executive director.
However, some organizations, including the Wisconsin Dairy Alliance, are calling for the rule revisions to be removed completely.
“It’s not enough to delay consideration of the proposed changes to ATCP51,” said Cindy Leitner, WDA president. “These proposed changes would have a devastating impact on the struggling dairy industry in Wisconsin...(and) the dairy industry has been sounding the alarm bells on these rule revisions for months.”
Leitner referenced a letter sent to DATCP in September that outlined their specific concerns with the revisions, which included but weren’t limited to, the abandonment of the existing odor scoring system in favor of new property-line setbacks; inconsistencies with existing state and federal standards; and broadened local control that could discourage livestock farming in certain communities. The letter was signed by a handful of industry organizations, including the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Cooperative Network, Dairy Business Association, Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association, Wisconsin Dairy Products Association, Wisconsin Farm Bureau and Wisconsin Pork Association.
A more recent letter signed by industry organizations and submitted to DATCP board chair Miranda Leis acknowledges that progress has been made on some of the issues the groups outlined in their previous letter, but the proposed changes have also created new items of concern.
“We want what is best for Wisconsin agriculture and we do not believe this most recent draft fits that description,” the letter read. “(The rules) are not ‘practical and workable, cost-effective,’ nor are they ‘designed to promote the growth and viability of animal agriculture in this state.’”
While many industry organizations are supportive of DATCP’s decision, Wisconsin Farmers Union has come out in opposition of the decision to halt changes for the livestock siting rule. Wisconsin Farmers Union president Darin Von Ruden urged DATCP and Pfaff to reverse course immediately and bring rule revisions to a vote before the DATCP board.
“To scrap the rules now is to ignore the input of hundreds of citizens who participated in the public comment process, not to mention the hundreds of hours invested by technical review committee members in 2010, 2014 and again in 2018,” Von Ruden said. “To abandon the revisions now at the 11th hour is a colossal waste of government resources.”
The state’s livestock siting rule went into effect in 2006 and hasn’t been changed since its adoption. The administrative rule, which sets standards and procedures that local governments must follow if they choose to require permits for new or expanding livestock operations, is required to be reviewed by the department every four years. Technical committees have undertaken this review in 2010, 2014 and in 2018.
For more up-to-date information on ATCP51 and any movement as the rule revision process continues, visit https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Programs_Services/LSRuleRevision.aspx.