Courtesy of the Wisconsin Dairy Alliance and Venture Dairy Cooperative
Recently, the Kewaunee County Land and Conservation Committee released preliminary findings from a county-funded report which demonstrated that in the Village of Casco, the average age of nitrate contamination was 30 years old, and most importantly for policymakers, none of the nitrate contamination was generated after 2007.
The Village of Casco is surrounded by agricultural land and has struggled with high levels of nitrates detected in some local wells. Blame has repeatedly been placed at the feet of current farms, especially CAFOs, but these studies show that continued ratcheting up of regulations on large farms is not the answer.
“We applaud the County for taking innovative steps to address nitrates in water, even if it doesn’t fit the narrative environmental activists try so hard to drive. They are interested in results, not appeasing the mob,” says Kim Bremmer of Venture Dairy Cooperative.
“As we have known all along, these results show modern livestock farmers are doing a good job keeping the water clean.”
At the same time, best management practices and regulatory requirements on CAFOs have changed dramatically since 2007. CAFOs are required to follow Nutrient Management plans, are audited annually by the DNR, farmers plant cover crops, engage in no-till planting, are subject to setbacks, and implement other best practices that far exceed what is required by law.
“Regardless of the age or source of the contamination, farmers are excellent stewards of the environment and they have to be since efficiency also affects their bottom line,” says Cindy Leitner of Wisconsin Dairy Alliance.
“The study makes it clear current farming practices are not causing contamination. Piling on regulations cannot fix the problems of the past. The study showed some of the nitrate impacted water dates from the 1960s.”
The study was conducted by Dragun Corporation, a highly respected firm of environmental advisors. The study, which used isotope testing (testing that determines the age of contamination), was preliminary and the sample size limited, but is an important first step in the mission to ensure access to clean water.
“For too long farmers have been told, and some have begun to believe that they are to blame for any contamination issues because they ‘are not doing enough’, especially in this part of the state,” Leitner says. “But this study shows that is almost certainly wrong. If policymakers want to get serious about clean water they have to put facts before narrative.”
Wisconsin Dairy Alliance and Venture Dairy Cooperative will continue to monitor the study and update members when more detailed information is available publicly.