June 29, 2016
The owners of the factory farm that was recently cleared of violating state environmental rules for spreading manure gave more than $30,000 to Republican Gov. Scott Walker over the last six years.
Earlier this year, Central Sands Dairy, with 3,800 cows, spread large amounts of liquid manure on 200 acres it owns near homes and a trout stream in the town of Grant. Some of it was spread even with rain in the forecast, according to Madison attorney Christa Westerberg, who contacted the DNR on behalf of area residents. But the Department of Natural Resources said the farm did not violate the law. Central Sands Dairy is owned by the Wysocki Family of Companies, which also wants to build a controversial factory farm called Golden Sands Dairy in Saratoga in Wood County.
In a separate matter last year, environmental testing paid for by Wysocki found the presence of E. Coli bacteria, and nitrate levels substantially higher than state drinking water standards at wells that were monitored at Central Sands Dairy.
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 earlier this month 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.
The owners of the Wysocki Family of Companies, of Bancroft, contributed about $31,000 to Walker between January 2010 and December 2015, including:
$9,527 by James and Sharon Wysocki, of Custer;
$4,500 from Russell and Diane Wysocki, of Custer;
$4,500 from Gary and Elizabeth Wysocki, of Bancroft;
$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.
In addition, four other members of the Wysocki family gave Walker a total of $7,850 between January 2010 and December 2015.
The company was also active lobbying state lawmakers last year. Wysocki Produce Farm, which is one of the company’s large potato farms, spent about $111,100 on lobbying state policymakers in 2015 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.
Last week, a task force made up of citizens, farmers and public officials called for limits on manure spreading and greater oversight by the DNR in Kewaunee County, which has a large number of factory farms. In December, a third of the drinking water wells tested in the county were found to be unsafe.