Dairy, Environmental Groups Join Forces To Support Farmers & Improve Water Quality

Dec. 22, 2020

Environmental and farm groups are lobbying the state of Wisconsin for significant funding to protect drinking water

Environmental and farm groups are lobbying Wisconsin for significant funding.

The goal of these groups is to support farms across Wisconsin and protect drinking water, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

The partnership includes the Dairy Business Association (DBA), Clean Wisconsin, The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association.

The groups are proposing a bigger investment to ensure clean drinking water statewide. 

In the outline, the groups created four guiding principles to improve water quality: touch on well testing and replacement; change the state's concentrated animal feeding operations permitting program; support land conservation; and improve efforts to address farm runoff.

According to Matt Krueger, executive director of the Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation, counties requested nearly $18 million in state funding for 2021, but they will likely receive half that. State funding for county conservation staff and cost-share assistance for conservation practices have consistently fallen short, added Krueger.

"But I think we all know that the price of inaction is going to be more significant," said Krueger. "And I think we're already starting to see that across the state."

Northeastern and southwestern Wisconsin have experienced raised concerns over drinking water due to studies that have found groundwater contaminated with nitrates or fecal matter in wells.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers declared 2019 the "Year of Clean Drinking Water," according to the state. A water quality task force was also created to hold meetings throughout the year, which ultimately produced a $10 million plan for clean water in Wisconsin. 

A recent report that found nitrate pollution in drinking water is linked to negative health repercussions, which are costing people in Wisconsin up to $80 million each year in medical expenses, reported the EWG

According to the Wisconsin Groundwater Coordinating Council, approximately 10% of private wells sampled in Wisconsin have nitrate levels that go beyond safe standards, reported the Wisconsin Public Radio. Agriculture accounts for roughly 90% of the contamination.

The groups recommend: expanding well testing and funding to replace wells; efforts to better understand sources of groundwater contamination; making the state's CAFO permitting program more efficient; and providing more resources to farmers to comply with standards.

Elizabeth Koehler, director for the Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin, notes that 37% of Wisconsin's 9 million acres of cropland are covered by a nutrient management plan.

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Cristina Tuser

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