April 18, 2017
The decision involves the Wysocki Family of Companies, which wants to build Golden Sands Dairy, a factory farm that would hold up to 5,300 cows and produce an estimated 55 million gallons of manure a year. The farm would require about 4,600 acres of red pine forest to be logged, and it would use 32 high-capacity wells for irrigation. The contentious wells, which have been blamed for shrinking lakes and streams around the state during summer, would supply the farm with up to 2 billion gallons of water to use each year.
The 4th District Court of Appeals ruled last week that the owners of the proposed farm do not have the right to use more than 6,000 acres of land near the farm to grow crops to feed the cattle and to spread manure. The decision upholds action by the town of Saratoga, where the dairy will be located, which banned agricultural uses for the land the company planned to use to grow crops and spread manure. The town’s zoning decision on the land came after the company had applied for a state permit in 2012 to build the farm. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is still conducting an environmental review for the permit.
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. Republican Gov. Scott 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, chief financial officer for the company, said the owners may appeal the ruling to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Wysocki family members and other owners of the Wysocki Family of Companies contributed about $75,325 between January 2010 and December 2016 to legislative and statewide candidates:
$20,552 by James and Sharon Wysocki, of Custer;
$10,075 from Kirk and Jacqueline Wille, of Custer;
$8,925 from Jeff Sommers, of Bancroft;
$7,650 from Louis Wysocki, of Custer;
$6,925 from Gary and Elizabeth Wysocki, of Bancroft;
$6,925 from Bill and Marla Wysocki, of Plover;
$6,675 from Russell and Diane Wysocki, of Custer;
$6,500 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. None of the justices on the seven-member Supreme Court received campaign contributions from the Wysocki family or other owners.
In addition to the campaign contributions, the Wysocki Produce Farm, which is one of the family’s large potato farms, spent about $161,000 on lobbying state policymakers from January 2015 through last December on groundwater legislation and zoning issues.