December 7, 2016
The Department of Natural Resources is continuing to mull over a permit for a huge factory farm in Wood County of more than 5,000 cows. The permit is being sought by the Wysocki Family of Companies, whose owners have contributed more than $31,000 since January 2010 to Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
The DNR’s consideration of a permit for Golden Sands Dairy comes amid plans that were announced last week by the agency to change some of its regulatory tasks, including the way it handles permits for factory farms. The DNR wants to create a program to certify engineers, agronomists, consultants and others who are hired by factory farm owners to do the information gathering and background work for the permits. The agency would retain final authority over granting the permit and inspecting permit holders.
The proposed Golden Sands Dairy would hold up to 5,300 cows, which would produce 55 million gallons of manure a year, and require about 4,600 acres of red pine forest to be logged. The farm would also use 32 high-capacity wells for irrigation that would supply the farm with up to 2 billion gallons of water to use each year.
The DNR has never rejected a permit for a factory farm, but it has placed conditions on some of the farms because of groundwater and other environmental concerns.
Walker’s DNR has been frequently criticized for being too friendly to big business and other special interests at the expense of enforcing clean air, water and other environmental rules. A Legislative Audit Bureau report released last June showed that DNR inspections, enforcements actions, and fines against polluters – including large farms, factories, and sewage treatment plants – fell sharply over the past 10 years.
James Wysocki and the other owners the Wysocki Family of Companies contributed more than $31,000 to Walker between January 2010 and October 2016, including:
$9,527 by James and Sharon Wysocki;
$4,750 from Gary and Elizabeth Wysocki, of Bancroft;
$4,500 from Russell and Diane Wysocki, of Custer;
$4,500 from Kirk and Jacqueline Wille, of Custer;
$4,500 from Jeff Sommers, of Bancroft;
$3,500 from Bill and Marla Wysocki, of Plover.
Four other members of the Wysocki family gave Walker a total of $7,850 between January 2010 and October 2016.
In addition to the campaign contributions, the Wysocki Produce Farm, which is one of the family’s large potato farms, spent about $156,100 on lobbying state policymakers from January 2015 through last June on groundwater legislation and zoning issues.
Factory farms, formally known as concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs, are farms with thousands of head of cows, heifers, hogs, chickens or turkeys that can generate millions of gallons of liquid manure annually. Manure spreading, which is done to fertilize farm fields, has become a controversial issue throughout the state because the large amount of manure generated by factory farms is suspected of contaminating well water in some areas.