Rock County dairy farm wins water-quality standards case

Jul 11, 2012

A Rock County, Wis., town’s attempt to require a livestock farm to meet stricter water than state regulations was rebuffed Wednesday by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The Town of Magnolia, on State Route 213 in northern Rock County, granted a permit to Larson Acres Dairy in 2006 but imposed conditions aimed at controlling nitrate levels in water sources near the 2,900-cow facility.

Those conditions exceeded the requirements of Wisconsin’s 2004 Livestock Facility Siting Law that created standards for local governments to follow when granting permits for new and expanding livestock operations.

Magnolia residents blamed manure from Larson Acres cows for polluted water supplies, but the court said the town lacks the authority to demand standards not required by the state.

Larson had appealed the requirements to the Livestock Facility Siting Review Board, which struck down a number of the Magnolia-mandated conditions. That led to five years of back-and-forth court rulings, with a lower court siding with the town and an appeals court reversing the decision in favor of the board.

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