A draft rule released in July by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) could limit and even eliminate the spreading of manure on some vulnerable soils in 15 eastern Wisconsin counties.
The restrictions come on soils that overlay Silurian bedrock in counties that typically abut or are near Lake Michigan: Brown, Calumet, Dodge, Door, Fond du Lac, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha counties. The Wisconsin DNR estimates there may be some 87,000 acres which soil is less than 5’ deep underlain by porous bedrock.
The restrictions would apply to large farms with Confined Animal Feeding Operation permits with 1,000 or more animal units, typically 700 cows. Smaller farms would have to comply if local communities enact ordinances consistent with the rule.
The amount of manure that can be spread will be determined by the amount of soil which overlays the bedrock. For example, the most restrictive rules will apply to soils that have less than 5’ of topsoil. Where soils are 2’ or less, manure spreading would be prohibited. There would be no manure spreading on frozen and snow-covered soils with less than 5’ of depth. Manure spreading will also be prohibited within 250’ of a well used for drinking water.
For its part, the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association is monitoring the regulatory process and is hoping to find “pragmatic solutions to the challenges of manure management…. We want to ensure that any end result [of regulation] brings about environmental protections and is practical for farmers to implement.”
The draft rules will next go to the Wisconsin State Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans. Stay tuned for further changes.