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September 2015

Producer Led Watershed Protection Grants
By Jordan Lamb, DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C.

The 2015-16 State Legislative session in Wisconsin has begun.  The new Wisconsin State Legislature was sworn in on January 5, 2015.  Both the Assembly and the Senate have Republican majorities so Republican members of each house hold the chairman positions for each standing committee.On September 23, 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Board will evaluate a proposal to authorize the DATCP to begin drafting a new administrative rule that will define Wisconsin's new Producer Led Watershed Protection grant program. This program was created as another tool for farmers to use to further develop voluntary, innovative solutions to water quality concerns caused by agricultural nonpoint source pollution.

As a part of the 2015-17 biennial budget bill, the State Legislature created a new grant program at DATCP - the Producer Led Watershed Protection Grant Program - to provide additional funding for water quality abatement activities. The new grant program is specifically for farmers within a watershed to design and lead their own water quality activities.

DATCP is authorized to award grants totaling up to $250,000 annually to qualified groups consisting of agricultural producers that wish to voluntarily conduct nonpoint source water pollution abatement activities in their watersheds. There are statutory conditions that must be met for farmers to be eligible to receive these grants. Initially, a producer group must have at least five agricultural producers, each of whom operates as an eligible farm in one (i.e., in the same) watershed. The producer group must be formed through a memorandum of understanding with at least one of the following organizations, all of which have expertise in conservation or water pollution abatement: the Department of Natural Resources, a county land conservation committee, the University of Wisconsin-Extension or the Discovery Farms program of the University of Wisconsin-Extension or, a nonprofit conservation organization. The group generally must contribute matching funds equal to 50 percent of eligible costs and must file an annual report with the department.

If approved by the DATCP Board, DATCP's proposed administrative rule will further define the grant program by establishing the criteria for the issuance of grant funds.

DNR Guidance for CAFO's Updated
By Jordan Lamb, DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has finalized draft guidance requiring identification of wetlands on a proposed CAFO site before the CAFO can apply for a WPDES permit. This guidance revises a portion of the permit application and approval process involving storm water, CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), and waterway and wetland permit programs. Under this guidance, a wetland delineation by an Assured Delineator or a delineation with concurrence by the DNR or U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be required with permit application submittal. The previous process did not require wetland boundary verification before permit application submittal which frequently led to permit processing delays.
 
The guidance requires CAFO permit applicants to "screen" their project site for potential wetlands using the DNR's online tools. If no wetlands are identified, then the applicant indicates that on the application form. If the screening reveals potential wetland impacts, then the applicant must obtain a wetland delineation. This can be done by a private consultant or government agency (DNR or Corps).   Although the guidance is "draft" guidance until it becomes effective on June 1, 2016, starting September 1st, 2015 use of this guidance is preferred by the DNR. Full implementation will begin June 1, 2016.   The entire final draft guidance document can be found online at: this website .

The PDPW Capitol Link is a periodic publication produced by PDPW and DeWitt Ross & Stevens. The information provided in this newsletter is provided for educational and informational purposes only. PDPW does not attempt to influence legislation or administrative rules at any level. The contents of this newsletter are intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific situation. You are urged to consult an attorney concerning your own situation and any legal questions you may have.

Jordan Lamb is a partner at DeWitt Ross & Stevens' Capitol Square office in Madison. Jordan's law practice focuses on government relations and administrative law. She concentrates on legislative drafting, legislative research, and facilitating communication between clients and state government including administrative agencies and the State Legislature. Ms. Lamb also offers litigation support for administrative law issues. Jordan can be contacted at 608-252-9358 or at jkl@dewittross.com. 

The PDPW Capitol Link is sponsored by DeWitt Ross & Stevens law firm. DeWitt Ross & Stevens is a Wisconsin law firm whose members are leaders in their areas of practice and in their communities. Founded in 1903, today there are more than 80 attorneys in their Madison and Milwaukee offices. Nominated by peers as top lawyers nationally and locally, DeWitt's attorneys offer numerous services including strategic counseling, advocacy, collaboration, alternative dispute resolution, negotiation, mediation, lobbying, and litigation. For more information about DeWitt Ross & Stevens, go to www.dewittross.com.
 
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