Wisconsin judge rejects attempt to overturn factory farm regulations

Ruling allows DNR to continue requiring pollution permits for large-scale livestock operations.




2 minute read

Hog CAFO in North Carolina. (Emily Sutton, Waterkeeper Alliance/Flickr)

A lawsuit filed by industrial agriculture advocates that sought to eliminate environmental protections in Wisconsin state law has been defeated in court. A Calumet County judge ruled on January 30 in favor of state statutes that empower the Department of Natural Resources to require pollution permits for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

The suit was opposed by groups working to protect Wisconsin’s water, including the Wisconsin Farmers Union, Midwest Environmental Advocates, and Clean Wisconsin.

“This ruling not only upholds critical clean water protections, but also reinforces the imperative of responsible practices in agriculture,” said Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden. “The current rules create transparency and ensure that CAFOs are accountable, not only to regulators, but also to their neighbors, who have a right to know that CAFOs are operating responsibly.”

CAFOs have become a big issue in Wisconsin over the past two decades. The number of such facilities, which have more than 1,000 animal units, has more than doubled since 2005, going from 135 to 330 today. The suit was filed last year by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, representing the Wisconsin Dairy Alliance and Venture Dairy Cooperative.

Requiring permits under the Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) is a key part of how Wisconsin regulates CAFOs. The permit requires a Nutrient Management Plan, which explains where and when manure will be spread on farm fields as fertilizer.

“These large operations can produce as much waste as a small city, and the state must be able to monitor and control how, where, and in what quantities manure is stored and spread on the landscape,” said Clean Wisconsin attorney Evan Feinauer. “That’s why for nearly 40 years, the DNR has required large CAFOs to have permits to limit this dangerous pollution. Allowing large dairies to sidestep oversight would have been catastrophic for water protection in our state.”

There are currently few CAFOs in the St. Croix River region. A large dairy operation near the Willow River has had numerous pollution problems over the past several years, including violations of its WPDES permit. A hog CAFO proposed near the Trade River has raised significant opposition since it was first announced in 2019. At this time, the proposal is under review for its WPDES permit.


12 responses to “Wisconsin judge rejects attempt to overturn factory farm regulations”

  1. Lois Gertz Avatar
    Lois Gertz

    This is excellent news and a beginning in the effort to keep the northern watersheds unpoisoned.
    It is going to take continued monitoring and law enforcement.

  2. Jude Avatar

    Excellent,this is the way it should be.

  3. Tre Avatar

    It would be a sad day for our water rights and for the animals who need that protection as well.

  4. Rob Kufalk Avatar
    Rob Kufalk

    Bout time, what is needed now are compliance checks.

  5. R .Vaughn Avatar
    R .Vaughn

    Corporations n The Government itself is directly responsible for these Outfits .They contributed to the demise of ye small family farms years ago by promoting these business models .Having seen them work against the small pork producers in the early 90’s to eliminate them …Clean ,unpolluted water shed need to be mandatory…Soil testing will tell you what can be injected or sprayed on farmland without excess material being put where its not needed …without allowing for what. Company wants to get rid of in a certain area.

  6. Gravitycreatedlife Avatar

    I can’t believe they actually filed a lawsuit to pollute the landscape/ water.
    Some people are so self centered it’s pathetic.

  7. Mark Avatar

    Everyone should backyard a dozen hogs in their homestead , divide the work !” sound good ?

  8. Bobette Ash Avatar
    Bobette Ash

    That’s great news to hold farmers accountable. The stench from factory farms is terrible, I think farmers need to be inspected, I’ve witnessed farmers beating cattle with iron pry bars, beyond cruel, the cows drop to the floor & cry out in pain. Stop the abuse, factory farms are cruel!!

    1. David Snyder Avatar
      David Snyder

      It not the normal everyday farmer. It’s big business corporate farming. Please don’t confuse the two.

  9. Dianne Polasik Polasik Avatar
    Dianne Polasik Polasik

    Big business corporate farming needs this regulation. Our waters need to be protected. Period.



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Wisconsin judge rejects attempt to overturn factory farm regulations