MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Support broke down Wednesday for a Republican proposal that would strip the state agriculture department of its authority to regulate factory-farm siting decisions and expansions and hand oversight to agricultural groups.
The Senate was scheduled to vote on the proposal but instead canceled the vote was canceled and sent the bill back to committee just before debate was to begin. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said lawmakers were still working with agriculture groups to reach a deal but couldn’t in time for a vote.
The bill may be doomed this year. The Assembly was scheduled to vote on it on Thursday, its final day in session this year. If the proposal were passed there, the Senate could take it up in March in its final planned session day. But it would have to pass a version that’s identical to the one that cleared the Assembly.
Even if it passed the Legislature, Gov. Tony Evers would most likely veto it.
Currently, the agriculture department writes siting and expansion regulations subject to approval by the governor and Legislature. Under the bill, the department would need permission from a new nine-member board before it could began drafting. Five members of the board would be selected from agricultural groups.
The bill came after the department had proposed new minimum setbacks for farms’ manure-storage buildings. The proposal outraged agricultural groups, which complained that the new setbacks were too strict.
The department dropped the plan amid the uproar. But the proposal so angered Republican senators that they took the unprecedented step in November of voting against confirming the department’s secretary, Brad Pfaff, forcing him out of the post.