June 5, 2018
Owners of a proposed factory farm who are generous contributors to GOP legislative and statewide candidates can go ahead with their controversial project in Wood County, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
The decision by the high court, which is controlled by conservatives, involves the Golden Sands Dairy sought by the Wysocki Family of Companies. The new factory farm would hold up to 5,300 cows and produce an estimated 55 million gallons of manure a year. The farm would also need 32 high-capacity wells for irrigation. The controversial wells, which have been blamed for depleting lakes and streams, would pump up to 2 billion gallons of water each year for the new farm.
The Supreme Court ruled that Golden Sands had the right to use all of the land identified in its building permit application for agricultural purposes. The decision reversed an earlier state appeals court ruling and a town of Saratoga zoning rule that said the proposed dairy’s building permit application only applied to the construction of agricultural buildings, not crop planting to support the farm.
Wysocki family members and other owners of the Wysocki Family of Companies contributed about $92,500 between January 2010 and December 2017 to legislative and statewide candidates and fundraising committees, and all but $4,300 went to Republicans:
$21,052 by James and Sharon Wysocki, of Custer;
$16,000 from Wysocki Produce Farm (corporation);
$10,075 from Kirk and Jacqueline Wille, of Custer;
$8,925 from Jeff Sommers, of Bancroft;
$7,950 from Louis Wysocki, of Custer;
$6,925 from Gary and Elizabeth Wysocki, of Bancroft;
$6,925 from Bill and Marla Wysocki, of Plover;
$6,925 from Russell and Diane Wysocki, of Custer;
$6,600 from Francis and Harriet Wysocki, of Custer;
$1,100 from Gregory Wysocki, of Stevens Point.
The biggest recipient of contributions from the Wysockis and other owners was Walker, who accepted about $39,125. One justice, conservative Rebecca Bradley, received two $100 contributions in 2016 from Louis Wysocki and Harriet Wysocki.
Powerful business lobbies that also donate heavily to Republican candidates and to conservative state supreme court justices filed amicus briefs backing Wysocki. These groups included: the Wisconsin Builders Association, the Wisconsin Realtors Association, and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. Wisconsin’s Attorney General, Brad Schimel, also filed an amicus brief on behalf of Wysocki.
In addition to the campaign contributions, the Wysocki Produce Farm, which is one of the family’s large potato farms, spent $209,000 on lobbying state policymakers from January 2015 through last December on groundwater legislation and zoning issues.