(Photo by Shutterstock)
(Photo by Shutterstock)

Already getting public hearing Thursday morning

A fast-moving bill first circulated for sponsors Monday that deals with the siting of large livestock facilities will be the subject of a public hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday.

The bill has the support of the Wisconsin Counties Association and the Wisconsin Towns Association, but attorneys writing on behalf of Midwest Environmental Advocates are already criticizing the bill. They say it removes an important piece of public review and oversight of so called factory farms, including the ability to adjust rules as science uncovers more about the impacts of these large operations on water and other nearby resources. 

The MEA attorneys go on to say the Republican-backed proposal, Assembly BIll 894 and Senate Bill  808, will further weaken local control and limit public input related to the siting and expansion of large livestock facilities, often referred to as controlled animal feeding operations, or CAFO’s. 

The bill’s two main sponsors are Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, and Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green. 

Currently, it is the job of local governments to administer the state guidelines associated with Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection livestock siting rule,  ATCP 51. This rule caps the permit application fee at $1,000.

Costs incurred by local governments to review an application, however, typically exceed this amount, said the towns and counties association memo. The memo states the bill overcomes this barrier by shifting much of the administrative costs to the state. It accomplishes this by also shifting the initial review process to DATCP.

If DACTP finds the livestock facility meets ATCP 51 guidelines, the local government would then apply its normal zoning or licensing procedures.

“This bill maintains local control at its current level,” reads the memo.

The bill would also create a new technical review board, with a majority of the seats reserved for representatives of industry agriculture groups. It would also require two-thirds vote from the new board for any future revisions to the Livestock Facility Siting Law. 

The bill would also eliminate the mandated 4-year review process for updating and improving the Livestock Facility Siting Law. 

The attorney memo states the review process is one of the few opportunities for citizens to have a voice in the way that CAFOs are sited and regulated. 

In addition, eliminating the review process would make it nearly impossible to update the Livestock Facility Siting Law as new scientific and technical data becomes available.

“These two provisions would effectively eliminate the possibility that any meaningful revisions to the law will ever be passed,” said the memo from Midwest Environmental Advocates. 

The public hearing begins at 10 a.m. Thursday and will be held in Room 417 North.