Capitol Update
by Senator Howard Marklein
February 14, 2020


Supporting Farmers AND Protecting Natural Resources

In 2019, the Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection (DATCP) commenced a review process to propose changes to ATCP 51, an administrative rule related to livestock facility siting in Wisconsin. These rules govern the standards and procedures that are in effect when a farm seeks to locate or expand a livestock facility. 
Current law requires the department to review the rules every four years. While the review process was halted in November 2019 for a variety of reasons, the rule review discussion exposed several areas where the rules could be improved.
Rep. Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City) and I were contacted by a workgroup made up of most of the livestock agricultural organizations in Wisconsin to draft legislation to update livestock siting statutes and processes, while maintaining current siting standards in ATCP 51. After several months of negotiation among agriculture groups, the Wisconsin Towns Association (WTA) and the Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA), we have written a bill that is a very good step toward better livestock siting rules and processes that will enable farmers to expand while protecting our environment and maintaining local government control.
This bill combines two of our main goals as we finish the legislative session – clean water and support for agriculture. It maintains strong, existing standards while refining the way revision recommendations will be made in the future to add stakeholder voices. It also provides relief for local governments by centralizing the review of livestock siting applications, but maintains local control in the permitting process. State-level experts will apply the standards to applications and then provide a decision for local governments to use for their permitting process.  All of these changes create certainty and predictability for farmers. This bill is a win-win-win-win-win.
This bill accomplishes the following goals:

  • Maintains current standards in ATCP 51 until they are revised through the rules process.
  • Maintains the rules process for livestock siting, with prescriptive membership for the technical review advisory committee to recommend future revisions to rules.
  • Provides certainty and predictability for farmers by clarifying timelines, permitting fee caps, and introducing a new centralized process for siting application review.
  • Provides relief for local governments by requiring DATCP to work with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to determine whether livestock siting applications meet siting standards. Current law requires local governments to apply state standards. 
  • Creates a new role for experts at DATCP and DNR to work with the local governments for siting plan review for statewide consistency and predictability for both local government and farmers.
  • Maintains local control through the zoning process.
  • Maintains public input as part of the livestock siting application process.

The legislation was written with collaboration by the following livestock siting stakeholders:

  • Dairy Alliance of Wisconsin
  • Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation
  • Dairy Business Association
  • Wisconsin Pork Producers Association
  • Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association
  • Wisconsin Association of Professional Agricultural Consultants
  • Wisconsin Towns Association
  • Wisconsin Counties Association

I am optimistic that this legislation will move swiftly through the legislative process in these last weeks of the legislative session. This bill fixes what’s broken and improves the livestock siting process, as well as the processes we use to improve standards and rules.  It lays a strong foundation for the future to support farmers and protect our natural resources.