Despite a commitment to keep its Dairy Forage Research Center farm in compliance with state and federal laws that protect water quality, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has again failed to complete its annual Nutrient Management Plan.  This is the second year in a row that Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB) has had to pressure the USDA into completing the required conservation plan.

Since 2002, all Wisconsin farmers have been required to prepare annual Nutrient Management Plans to protect our lakes, streams, and groundwater from polluted agricultural runoff.  According to the Sauk County officials, federal agencies such as USDA are not exempted from these requirements.

In a September 2 letter to CSWAB, USDA agreed to file a certified plan with the Sauk County Land Conservation Department by September 19, 2008.  They also agreed to have a certified plan for 2009 on file with the county by March 31 of next year.  Director Neal Martin wrote that the farm has been following appropriate nutrient management practices but said “there is no excuse for not having the correct paperwork filed on time.”

The 2,000-acre Dairy Forage Research Center farm borders the Wisconsin River just north of Prairie du Sac and has approximately 350 lactating dairy cattle. A formal Nutrient Management Plan is also required as part of a county-issued permit for its manure holding facility constructed on recently-acquired land at Badger Army Ammunition Plant.

“We were extremely disappointed to learn that the Dairy Forage Research Center farm had still not completed a Nutrient Management Plan for this year, especially in light of the protracted discussions with CSWAB over the last 3 years to get the facility into compliance,” said Laura Olah, Executive Director of the group.  “The years have exhausted our patience and the litany of excuses for non-compliance no longer has credence.”

CSWAB was organized in 1990 by neighbors of the closing military base and has been a driving force in the successful cleanup and conversion of the plant to conservation and sustainable agriculture.  Prior to CSWAB’s campaign, the USDA farm had never prepared a formal Nutrient Management Plan.

The farm operates jointly with the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Agricultural Research Stations. The UW owns the dairy herd and uses revenues from the farm to offset operating costs and to pay the state employees who work at the farm.

U.S. Senator Herb Kohl recently announced that the FY2008 federal budget includes over $2.5 million for evaluating the existing Dairy Forage Research Center farm facilities. Construction of a massive new research farm complex on former Badger Army Ammunition Plant lands has been proposed.