Wisconsin Considers State Subsidies for CAFO Waste Management

Lee Bergquist reported on the front page of Sunday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that, “Faced with mounting criticism over pollution problems from cow manure, Gov. Scott Walker’s administration is turning to a private initiative as a remedy to treat massive quantities of animal waste.

“State officials could spend up to $20 million in subsidies for systems to clean up manure and harness the waste as a source of natural gas.

“The initiative is chiefly targeting northeastern Wisconsin and the Lake Michigan basin, where concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, proliferate and the region’s fractured bedrock can create conditions allowing manure to percolate through the soil and pollute groundwater. Runoff from manure also has been linked to algae blooms and tainted wells.”

Mr. Bergquist noted that, “Manure pollution has become a growing political issue as the number of large-scale farms have grown from about 50 in 2000 to more than 200 today, according to state figures.

“Last week, officials released documents that asked farms and companies for proposals for improved manure management that would, among other goals, keep pathogens from animal waste from being spread on farmland.

“The scale of one or more systems could be unprecedented and the cost could approach $100 million in private investment, public documents suggest. The $20 million in subsidies would come from funds paid by utility customers for a state program that encourages energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy.”

Sunday’s article stated that, “Officials envision private interests to set up consortiums to build and operate hub-and-spoke systems to move liquid manure through a vast network of pipelines from farms to central sites.

“A biodigester would take the bacteria from manure to break down organic material and capture methane. Nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen would be removed and packaged as a fertilizer for later use. And a key feature: wastewater treatment systems commonly used by municipalities to clean polluted water would be installed.”

The Journal Sentinel article added that, “The Wisconsin Office of Energy Innovation commissioned a $50,000 study last year concluding that a manure handling system on a massive scale in Kewaunee County was feasible.”

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