Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Walker DNR shows priorities- helping Big Ag over people

If you hadn’t been tuned in to recent events in the news and saw this story today, you might find it very funny. But the topic and the corruption involved isn’t funny at all. (ignore the ad at the start)

An unhappy crowd greeted the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on the first day of their tour in Ashland.

Pig masks and signs reading "save my lake" were waiting for the Wisconsin DNR Tuesday.

"We value Lake Superior and we do not want the manure from 26,000 hogs in our watershed," said Mary Dougherty of Farms not Factories.
This protest comes on the heels of a major story over the weekend from the Wisconsin State Journal’s Steve Verburg which illustrated how mega-farms in Fitzwalkerstan and their lobbyists representatives at the Dairy Business Association get more pull over state regulation and enforcement than the everyday citizens who have to deal with runoff and other effects of these operations.
Last month, the DNR completed scope statements designed to update manure-spreading rules in light of widespread drinking water contamination in Kewaunee County, UW-Madison-led research on airborne hazards of spraying manure and other related state and federal rules.

The plans laid out reasons for changing standards for when, where and how manure could be spread by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). They also called for defining sensitive areas where shallow soil and porous bedrock leave groundwater especially vulnerable and extra precautions would be required.

On June 15, the DNR submitted the plans to Walker’s office, which distributed them to farm industry groups.

The Dairy Business Association then met with the DNR to express its concerns.

On July 13, the DNR submitted a more limited scope statement to Walker and he approved it the same day. That’s the plan the DNR’s policy board will consider Wednesday (today)
I’m sure the people from Farms not Factories could have gotten the same inside information and audience with the DNR that the Dairy Business Association got, right? And then gotten the DNR to see things their way after “expressing their concerns?” Suurrrre.

The day after that report appeared in the State Journal, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign “honored” the Dairy Business Association with its Influence Peddler of the Month award. The WDC said that the DBA has organized numerous backroom connections to go along with the large amount of money it gives directly to candidates.
The DBA’s backers give it considerable political clout that helps it move a lobbying agenda, which includes legislative bills and state rules to loosen land use, high-capacity well, wetland, groundwater protection, and factory farm regulations and enforcement. Factory farms are formally called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and house several hundred or thousands of cows, hogs, chickens and turkeys.

In a February 2016 opinion piece about controversial legislation to ease state oversight of high-capacity wells, which did not pass, DBA lobbyist John Holevoet wrote: “Our ready access to fresh water gives Wisconsin a competitive advantage in attracting new farms and other businesses that rely on water. We should be promoting this advantage, not regulating it out of existence.”

The DBA, which spent $179,045 on lobbying in 2015, employs five lobbyists, including Bill McCoshen, a prominent State Capitol lobbyist who was chief of staff to former longtime GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson (you can frequently see McCoshen as a Republican talking head on Channel 15 in Madison- his current day job is almost never mentioned). In the last full 2013-14 legislative session, the DBA spent nearly $304,000 on lobbying state policymakers.

In addition to lobbying on proposed state policy and spending, media reports as far back as 2010 show the DBA has met directly with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to change the way the agencies site, permit and regulate factory farms. Such ready access by a large corporate interest has raised questions about the DNR’s independence from both inside and outside the agency. “This particular lobbying group has been able to elbow its way into the higher levels of the regulatory agency. That kind of access is unprecedented,” Jamie Saul, a former Midwest Environmental Advocates attorney, said in a March 2010 media report.
This type of overwhelming influence on lawmaking is what made it so alarming to see the Dairy Business Association endorse Bigoted Becky Bradley for the Wisconsin Supreme Court this Spring, Just as bad, Bradley said she was “thrilled” to get that endorsement, tacitlyu admitting that she would do nothing to protect Wisconsin’s citizens from any regulations that might be required to protect groundwater safety (in fact, she’d be likely to strike down the few remaining regulations that do exist), and would give these megafarms free reign to mess things up as much as they want.

Yet even with information being public, look at how two of the counties that have been affected the most by CAFO runoff and pollution voted last April.

Kewaunee Co.- Bradley 62.6-37.4
Adams County- Bradley 54.4-45.5

As long as places keep voting for crooks who would allow their own communities to be poisoned by mega-farms, these problems will continue. Bayfield and Ashland County get it, and vote against the DBA’s handpicked puppets in WisGOP, but why don’t these places learn the same lesson?

There needs to be a strong effort made by advocacy groups and the Wisconsin Dems to make the DBA scarlet letters for anyone that takes their dirty money. Or else we will lose the clean, scenic waterways and usable drinking water that make rural Wisconsin worth visiting and living in.

PS- This disgrace of manure-laden groundwater and megafarms is going national, as Marquette grad Charlie Pierce is focusing on it in his Esquire column today.

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