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Natural Resources Board Approves NR 151 Revisions
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 01/25/2018

In a rare display of unification, farmers, agricultural organizations and environmental groups are all applauding the state natural resources board's passage of new rules that aim to protect groundwater in areas that have Siluran bedrock by placing new restrictions on manure spreading. On Wednesday, the panel unanimously approved the NR 151 revisions that give direction as to where, when, and how farmers can spread manure on fields in parts of the state where the porous bedrock and shallow soils make groundwater and surface waters vulnerable to runoff pollution from manure.

The changes specifically effect farmers in 15 eastern Wisconsin counties, including Kewaunee County, where a large number of tested private wells were found to contain bacteria and nitrate pollution. The new rules prohibit farmers from spreading manure on fields that have less than two-feet of soil over the bedrock. Farms with two- to 20-feet of topsoil would have to abide by gallon limitations dependent on soil depth.

Before the vote was taken, DNR Runoff Section Chief Mary Anne Lowndes said county land conservation staff would work with farmers and landowners to adopt the new standards once they are promulgated. But she stated that a lack of funding could mean resources would be limited to help implement the standards, especially in cases where cost-sharing would be necessary.

Jim VandenBrook, who serves as the executive director of Wisconsin Land+Water, says move was a step in the right direction for all sides.

"I have never seen such full-throated support for environmental protections as I saw today from Wisconsin agriculture, including farmers, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, Wisconsin Pork Producers, and the Wisconsin Association of Professional Agriculture Consultants," VandenBrook said. "County Land Conservation staff and supervisors will be eager to work with their farmers to get the job done."

The rules must still be approved by the full legislature and signed by Governor Walker. Once enacted, they would apply to Door, Kewaunee, Brown, Manitowoc, Calumet, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Dodge, Washington, Ozaukee, Waukesha, Milwaukee, Walworth, Racine and Kenosha Counties.

NR 151 was first implemented in 2011 to help keep lakes and streams cleaner by controlling phosphorus and run-off pollution.

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