Connecting the dots between Wisconsin Dairy and Water Quality

The Dairy Industry wants to be heard and involved in the inevitable tightening of regulations, which is the purpose of “Dairy Day at the Capitol,” sponsored by the Dairy Business Association. Digested Organics was invited to be a part of this full program of presentations and meetings with state legislators, at the highest level, to discuss issues and solutions to dairy sustainability.

Wisconsin Agriculture is an $88 Billion industry and dairy makes up $43 Billion of that total, so it makes sense for all stakeholders to understand the complexity of today’s dairy farming, global warming, and urban growth as a potential perfect storm for water quality, if not addressed effectively. Solutions, like ours at Digested Organics, are becoming the focus of those that are looking for solid, measurable reductions in nutrient loading into various watersheds.

The day began with addresses from newly elected Democratic Governor Tony Evers as well as newly appointed Ag Secretary Brad Pfaff, both of which voiced support for the Dairy Industry and budgeted financial support for farmer-led programming, research, and nutrient trading. Panel discussions followed with Q&A from various legislators from areas around the state that are heavy in agriculture. The afternoon was filled with meetings with state legislators and a chance for us to lobby for the programs we feel most beneficial to the industry, while protecting water quality.

As a representative for Digested Organics, I was teamed with Tom Crave, President of Dairy Business Association and a prominent dairyman in our state. We were joined by John Haeckel and Jessica Niekrasz, principles for Clean Fuel Partners, which operates several large anaerobic digester plants in Wisconsin, among others. It was very interesting to hear what matters most to each of these different entities – and the common denominator was water volume. We heard definitive support for services that can help farmers better manage manure.

The most intriguing program that has bi-partisan support is for a nutrient trading clearinghouse, which would be a third-party managed marketplace for nutrient credits that farmers have earned through permanent and verifiable changes to nutrient loading in large watersheds. This will enable farms to offset some of the costs of new technologies to manage their waste. Wisconsin will be first in the country.  Financial support from USDA and EPA is being pulled together to help offset upfront costs. All of this should be coming together this summer – stay tuned.

2019 is the “Year of Water” in Wisconsin and we are excited about the unanimous support and common interest in engineered solutions.

Article Contributed by Don Heilman

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