Brief

Nitrogen pilot program bill passes Senate

By: - March 9, 2022 5:00 am
pigs in the field

Hogs raised by April Prusia, who is helping to organize a producer/worker meat processing cooperative. (Photo courtesy Wisconsin Farmers Union)

A bipartisan bill to create a nitrogen optimization pilot program to aid farmers in reducing nitrogen pollution passed the state Senate Tuesday and will now head to Gov. Tony Evers’ desk. The measure, SB-677 creates a commercial nitrogen optimization pilot program and provides crop insurance premium rebates for planting cover crops, which farmers may use  to improve soil health. The bill also creates a new state hydrogeologist position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison extension, tasked with aiding local communities in tackling areas with high concentrations of contamination.

Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) said that she was “thrilled” to hear the bill passed the Senate. Shankland, who co-chaired the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality, noted that provisions in the bill had previously passed the Assembly. “While they never made it through the Senate due to the onset of the pandemic,” said Shankland, “I was glad to reintroduce this bill with my colleagues across the aisle this session.”

Rep. Katrina Shankland headshot
Rep. Katrina Shankland

Nitrate pollution is one of Wisconsin’s most common groundwater contaminants. In February, a report by the Environmental Working Group and Midwest Environmental Advocates found that in several counties, applied manure exceeded amounts recommended by researchers to minimize pollution. More than 90% of the state’s nitrate contamination comes from agricultural sources. Direct medical costs for nitrate contamination in drinking water range from $23-80 million per year in Wisconsin.

Shakland applauded the passage of the pilot program bill. “This legislation will provide much-needed support for farmers in taking preventative measures that protect our drinking water, as well as helping local governments find and address contamination where it occurs,” said Shankland. “Everyone deserves clean drinking water — and I’ll keep saying so and backing up my words with legislative action. Today is a great day for clean water.”

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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.

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