Thursday, May 18, 2017

30% of Wisconsin's CAFOs have expired permits; state staffing shortages blamed

Socially Responsible Agriculture Project photo
Nearly one-third—91 of 294—of Wisconsin’s large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are operating under expired permits, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Many of the permits expired in 2016, Danielle Kaeding reports for Wisconsin Public Radio.

While it is not illegal or uncommon for farms to operate with an expired permit, WDNR says a growing number of large farms, coupled with a shortage of staff to issue permits, has led to the backlog, Kaeding writes. Under state and federal rules, CAFO permits are issued every five years.

John Holevoet, director of government affairs for the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association, said "rules allow permits to remain in effect until they’re reissued." He told Kaeding, "It’s not as though these farms don’t have a permit. 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."

The backlog has caused concern among activists, who fear WDNR lacks the staff to enforce rules, Kaeding writes. Holevoet said it also has caused problems for farmers. He told Kaeding, "While your permit is in this limbo, you could not even do a simple construction project to the production site. So, if you need a new feed storage pad, you might have difficulty getting that completed during this limbo period of time."

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