Two weeks ago, Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey Boldt approved the state Department of Natural Resources’ issuance of permits for a large and controversial dairy farm in Central Wisconsin. But he also reduced the amount of water the farm could pump from proposed high-capacity wells and required the DNR to consider the impact of the withdrawals in conjunction with other, nearby wells — a concept known as cumulative impacts.
The greenhouse and its veggies are one example of a new cottage industry popping up across the country to capitalize on the waste energy, methane gas and the nutrient-rich solids that are emitted from a digester.
Since 2001, manure digesters have been popping up across the state. Wisconsin now has 34, the most in the nation, with two more scheduled to begin operating by 2015. In all these digesters, bacteria eat biomass like manure, food scraps or whey and emit energy in the form of methane gas.
A four-day hearing on challenges to the expansion of a Kewaunee County mega-dairy illustrated deep divisions, ranging from neighbors who shared fears of polluted wells and illness to fertilizer and feed dealers who showed up to express their support of big farms.
In a Green Bay hearing beginning Tuesday, a controversial attempt to expand a dairy farm set to become the fifth largest in Wisconsin will be challenged in a case that could have a far-reaching impact on how Wisconsin regulates industrial-size livestock farms.
Dairy farmer Jeremy Meissner and farm manager Huron Mireles are part of the reason Clark County’s population is growing while nearby counties’ levels are declining. Part three of three in the Center’s Rural Slide series.