As reported by Dinesh Ramde of the AP last night, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that localities cannot enact stricter regulations on large-scale animal farming operations (such as rules limiting water pollution) than those that are in place at the state level. As Ramde writes,
The ruling was believed to be the first decision by a state Supreme Court in about a half-dozen cases pitting neighbors and small farmers throughout the Midwest against so-called factory farms, which can have hundreds or even thousands of animals. Similar cases have been filed in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio and Oklahoma, and the decision was closely watched.
Farm groups cheered the ruling, saying it will allow farms to grow and expand under predictable and consistent terms applied statewide. But clean water activists said it will only encourage the growth of huge farms, with thousands of animals producing more manure than the land can handle and runoff that contaminates rivers and underground water sources.
The story also notes that large animal operations are a literally growing concern: “There are about 240 mega farms in Wisconsin, up from 219 two years ago and 138 in 2005, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. The state considers mega farms those with 714 or more dairy cows.”
Head here for the full story. If you are so inclined, you can also read the 35-page opinion yourself as either HTML or PDF. In addition, the majority opinion at those links is immediately followed by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s 17-page dissent (joined in part by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley), which includes juicy bits like “The majority opinion’s interpretation of the Siting Law reaches an absurd result.”