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Kewaunee County residents join Kinnard Farms/DNR case

A decade-old battle in Casco took another turn Friday when six Kewaunee County residents were allowed to intervene in a lawsuit involving the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Kinnard Farms. According to a Midwest Environmental Advocates release, Administrative Law Judge Angela Chaput Foy allowed the intervention as a full party to the suit, initially born out of a 2012 case where a group of neighbors challenged the farm on its water pollution permit when it looked to expand. 

Sue Owen and Jodi Parins are two of the Kewaunee County residents participating in the suit with the Midwest Environmental Advocates. In a release shared by MEA, both call for Kinnard Farms to stop their lawsuit and focus on additional water protection measures.

 

The dairy farm sued the DNR back in April for its requirement of installed groundwater monitoring systems and placing a limit of approximately 8,000 cows on the operation. Kinnard Farms said in the filed complaint in April that the monitoring systems carry an initial investment of tens of thousands of dollars plus an annual cost for experts to obtain the data required. The complaint also stated that the 8,000 cow limit does not allow for fluctuations in the current herd, let alone expansion. According to the original permit, Kinnard Farms showed no plans for growth. The suit came about a month after the DNR issued the modified pollution permit to Kinnard Farms.

 

Kinnard Farms President Lee Kinnard said in a statement after filing the lawsuit that “the Kinnard Farms family remains committed to regenerative agriculture and sustainability. On-farm practices such as planting cover crops, limited soil tillage (known as no-till), sand and water recycling, and more demonstrate our dedication to protecting groundwater in our community. We continue to invest in cutting-edge innovation to protect our environment.”  The lawsuit came after the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in July 2021 that the DNR had the authority to protect water quality by using specific terms and conditions in wastewater permits. This ruling came seven years after Kinnard Farms appealed a 2014 decision by Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey Boldt, who famously called the drinking water crisis in Kewaunee County a “massive regulatory failure.” In between decisions, farmers, environmentalists, government officials, and other community members formed workgroups that later led to the creation of new guidance for manure handling on fragile soils and the farmer-led watershed group known as Peninsula Pride Farms.

 

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