Green Guide

Large-scale animal farms' expired permits raise concerns

Posted May 17

— Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources statistics show that about a third of the state's large-scale animal farms operate under expired permits, which has raised concerns from some farmers.

Many of the permits for the concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, expired in 2016, Wisconsin Public Radio (http://bit.ly/2rs8Oln ) reported.

CAFO permits are issued every five years under federal and state rules, but it's not uncommon or illegal to operate a farm with an expired permit. The rules allow permits to stay effective until they're reissued, according to John Holevoet, spokesman for the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association.

"It's not as though these farms don't have a permit," Holevoet said. "They have a permit. They're 100 percent legally bound by their permit even though the initial timeframe is over. Until they have a new one, they must follow everything in that original permit."

Holevoet said the renewal process can anger farmers seeking to expand or update their operations.

"Because while your permit is in this limbo, you could not even do a simple construction project to the production site," Holevoet said. "So, if you need a new feed storage pad, you might have difficulty getting that completed during this limbo period of time."

Department of Natural Resources officials said staffing levels haven't kept pace with the growing workload as the number of large farms increases. Department spokesman Jim Dick said the agency added four new positions to increase large-scale farm inspections.

Wisconsin exceeded its 15 percent backlog threshold for CAFO permits in 2012 and 2013. The Natural Resources Department worked to reduce that to nearly 10 percent in 2014 and 2015.

Gov. Scott Walker has asked the Natural Resources Department and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to review whether CAFO regulation should be transferred to state agriculture officials. The study is part of the governor's 2017-2019 budget proposal. If approved, the study would have to be completed by the end of 2018.

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