Wis. town barred from imposing tougher farm water rules

State Supreme Court weighs in
Wis. town barred from imposing tougher farm water rules

The Wisconsin Supreme Court said a rural town does not have the authority to impose tougher water quality standards on a livestock farm than the state requires.

Wednesday’s decision means Magnolia, about 30 miles south of Madison, can’t demand that a 2,900-cow farm take extra steps to control pollution.

At issue was a state law designed to make farm regulations consistent across Wisconsin.

Magnolia residents said manure from Larson Acres’ cows pollutes their water supply. But the court agreed with the farm, which says the town lacks the authority to demand it meet standards not required by the state, including monthly water-quality tests.

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation called the ruling a huge win for Wisconsin livestock farmers.

“This landmark law was created to provide clear and consistent frameworks for both the farmers who grow their livestock farms and the local governments that wish to regulate these farms in a scientifically-sound manner,” said Paul Zimmerman, executive director of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation in a statement. “The conclusion of the ruling said that the state legislature had taken steps to balance the important interests of protecting precious natural resources with encouraging a robust and efficient agricultural economy. Rock County’s Town of Magnolia stepped over those limitations set by the Legislature.”

Similar cases have been filed in six other Midwestern states. Wisconsin’s case is believed to be the first to reach a state supreme court.