Proposed Manure Ordinance a Problem for Farmers

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

Some farmers might see a new manure ordinance as a waste of time. The Dane county executive sees it as a way to protect Wisconsin Rivers.

The proposal comes after a number of investigations into fish kills caused by manure runoff.

Fitchburg dairy farmer Pat O'Brien says, "to most people, manure is a dirty word, I guess."

But to the Stoner Prairie Dairy farm, manure is money saved.
"To the crop farmer, the dairy farmer, manure is a very important fertilizer asset," he says.

“We purchase very little commercial fertilizer, O'Brien says.
Instead, Pat O'Brien and his farmhands scrape this old milking barn three times a day, spreading the waste on several hundred acres.
"The majority of land we have is not highly erodible and I think it would be foolish to have a blanket ordinance that would hinder farmers who do not have highly erodible land," O'Brien says.

But Dane County's executive has proposed an ordinance to ban the spread of liquid manure in winter.

Kathleen Falk says, "this is a measure we can do that would make a big difference in the quality of our streams and yet something farmers can do and be supportive of."
O'Brien is less certain.

He says, "if were going to have enough storage to go winter months, we would have to have facilities four times as big as we have."

One manure pit alone holds 240, 000 gallons, but O'Brien says that's only a month's worth of storage.

"We have looked into increasing the size of our liquid manure storage. It could cost up to $200, 000. Well, that means we'd have to add more cows, so more cows mean mean more storage. More storage means a more expensive structure," he says.
O'Brien already has nearly 250 milking cows, and he says the county already has enough safeguards.

"The contamination of the Sugar River was a terrible thing and I don't think anyone wants to see that, including farmers, but we've got to be sure that we don't make rules and regulations that cripple agriculture here in Dane County," O'Brien says.

The county's land conservation committee will hold a hearing on the issue Wednesday afternoon.

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