State Blocks Northern Wisconsin County Regulation on Animal Feedlot Pollution

As an anecdotal aside, Wisconsin has notoriously had higher standards when it comes to care and quality of animal byproducts – in particular when it comes to dairy farming. Wisconsin has been fairly resistant to the animal feedlot / massive factory farming movement and has done so by controlling things like antibiotic use, square footage available per animal, etc.  That’s why this news from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is especially shocking.

Pursuant to a statute allowing local Wisconsin governments to create water quality standards and regulations that are more strict than existing state law, Bayfield County passed a one year moratorium in February 2015 on large scale, factory farms to block an Iowa based company from creating a 24,000-26,000 head hog farm (a controlled animal feeding operation, or “CAFO”).  At the expiration of the moratorium, Bayfield County then passed two ordinances in February 2016 that gave the County massive oversight of farm operations and water pollution.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources blocked these ordinances, essentially siting that they were not tailored enough to the actual water pollution problems in the watersheds of the County.

Oklahoma Governor Vetoes Feral Swine Act

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin vetoed SB1142 ((final version link)), the Feral Swine Control Act, on May 20, 2016.  The proposed bill allows the hunting of all wild hogs without a hunting license. Additionally, the following, often regulated or prohibited activities, would also be allowed when for hunting wild hogs, also without a hunting license: use of ATVs or other land vehicles to pursue or follow ferile swin; use a vehicle mounted spotlight; and use night-vision equipment or thermal-imaging technology.

Feral swine are deemed invasive species by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS for a more manageable name) and “cause cause damage to agricultural crops and livestock and threaten native wildlife and habitats” with its income impact estimate alone at $2 billion. SB1142 seeks protect Oklahoma’s agribusiness and natural lands.


Opponents of the bill note that it would make it exponentially easier for poachers and exponentially harder for game wardens to effectively do their jobs in keeping the wildlife ecosystem in Oklahoma in balance and preventing illegal poaching. License free hunting on public land also creates a public safety issue. Moreover, there is nothing to show that hog hunting actually reduces the feral swing population and USDA research shows that controlled hog trapping, done by game management specialists, is the most effective population control system (source).

Personal opinion: this all really highlights the tedious balance of wildlife population control.

Brochure reading material from USDA APHIS on feral swine in the US

Wisconsin Town to Appeal Decision Allowing a Factory Dairy Farm

Saratoga, WI is appealing a trial court decision that will allow the construction and operation of a 5,300 cow dairy farm.  Notice of appeal was filed Monday, June 15 in Wood County, Wisconsin.

The 7,000 acre farm is slated to offer many new jobs to Central Wisconsin. The Wysocki Family of Companies also promises to use the 7,000 acres to allow for grazing, as well as growth for potatoes and other vegetables.  Wysocki plans to use manure produced by the 5,300 cattle as nutrients for the potato and vegetable soil crop.

As with any large scale factory farm, the risk of run-off pollution is ever-present with large scale land application of manure. Soil density, precipitation, temperature, and amount of pollutants (such as nitrogen and phosphorous) require a delicate balance, and it is notoriously difficult to environmentally enforce or control such methods.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is still reviewing the environmental impact of the agricultural pollutant permit applications.

California Passes Bill Strict on Fraud at Farmers’ Markets

California passed AB 1871, which does two major things, among other provisions.  First, it restricts and criminalizes fraud at farmers’ markets in the state.  Second, it increases the daily stall fee from $0.50 to $2.

The bill first criminalizes any statement (oral, printed, or otherwise) that is misleading regarding the products area of production, producer identity and method of production.  Violation of such law is a misdemeanor, meaning 6 months (maximum) or a fine of $500-$5,000.

The rise in vendor fee is expected to raise $1.4 million annually and will be deposited into the Department of Food and Agriculture Fund.  This fund will be used to promote transparency.  Vendor fees will be used to evaluate county enforcement procedures, conduct hearings for violating these laws, maintaining a list of farmers’ market locations, maintaining lists of certified producers, and maintaining lists of producers whose certification was revoked.

This law also regulates the use and meaning of the term “California-grown,” directs the administrative agency to pass rules that regulate and promote wholesomeness of agricultural products, and regulates what constitutes a “certified” farmers’ market.

For further information on what this bill means for California, see this article.

Legislation Roundup – Alaska

What sort of agricultural laws is your state considering to pass?  Legislation Roundup highlights the laws that each state’s legislative branch is considering in session.  Never forget the importance of public political participation.  If you live in any of these states and support or oppose any state legislation, never hesitate to contact your assembly(wo)man/representative/senator and voice your opinion!  We pay their salaries in taxes.

  • HB215 – Would require all genetically engineered food products to have a label indicating it was “produced with genetic engineering” or “partially produced with genetic engineering.” Unpackaged food, such as produce, would have to have a label visible on the shelf or bin they are being sold in. This bill would bar any product from being labelled as “natural,” “naturally grown,” or “all natural” if it contains or was processed with genetically engineered food products.
  • HB224 – Prohibits the application of any neonicotinoid pesticide to any seed, foliage, or granular form to soil unless it is applied entirely within a greenhouse.
  • HB249 – Would prohibit the use of genetically engineered seeds and plants for agricultural product production.
  • HB248 – Establishes May 15 as ‘Think Local Day’ to raise awareness of use of local businesses, food, and products.

FDA’s Voluntary Program to Address Antibiotic Overuse in Animal Byproduct Industries

Modern methods of livestock care focus on the use of antibiotics – it fattens livestock up fast and, when used as non-therapeutic supplement, it prevents the spread of infectious viruses among cattle.  Overcrowding of livestock in factory farm settings creates a huge risk of viruses, infections, and diseases among the animals that can spread fast.  Antibiotics, when used supplementary in animal feed, prevent this and allow for more crowded quarters and ultimately a higher yield in animal byproducts.

This use of antibiotics in this manner is detrimental to human health and medical science.  When overexposed to antibiotics through ingestion of animal byproducts, people develop a resistance to antibiotics, rendering them ineffective to treat common ailments – the flu, injury infections,etc.  The CDC issued a threat report at the end of 2013 that found that 23,000 people in the United States die annually from antibiotic resistance – deaths that should have been avoided with effective antibiotic treatment.  The CDC warns that the continued use of antibiotics in animal feed creates a risk of death for simple infections such as strep throat.

Now, for the first time in over 35 years, the FDA is seeing some control over the practice of feeding antibiotics to livestock through a new voluntary program.  While the FDA is not directly regulating the practice, they have issued guidance documents and recommendations (see #209, #213). THe FDA asks veterinary antibiotic manufacturers to alter the drug labels to no longer provide antibiotics over-the-counter, thus rendering the drugs unavailable for use in animal feed.

On March 26, 2014 the FDA published a list of 25 companies that agreed in writing to no voluntarily comply and no longer allow their antibiotics to be sold over-the-counter.

For more information, see this article.

Labor Law and Poultry Processing Plant

The Seventh Circuit released a recent opinion on a labor law issue at a poultry processing plant.  In Mitchell v. JCG Industries, employees of a poultry processing plant sued for payment for time spent “doffing” before and after lunch breaks.  Employees in the poultry plant are required to wear protective gear and uniforms.  The employees claimed the process of robing and de-robing for breaks was taking 10-15 additional minutes of time for which they should be paid.  The employer processing plant claimed the process took only 2-3 minutes.

Out of curiosity, Judge Posner ordered the poultry plant protective clothing and had three court staff go through the process.

In the end, the court found for the employer poultry plant.  Apparently the court staff only took about three minutes to don the protective gear.