MADISON – Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association (WI Land+Water) Executive Director Matt Krueger provided testimony to the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality, outlining how county conservation departments are addressing these issues and how adequately funding these efforts will provide much-needed resources, mapping, and practices to improve water quality.
“The status quo is not working for water quality,” said Matt Krueger, Executive Director for WI Land+Water. “There is huge opportunity here to find common ground, and consensus exists that we must do a better job.
“Over a two year period ending in 2017, WI Land+Water convened a diverse group of bipartisan stakeholders through our Food, Land and Water Project. The effort produced a report that highlights the substantial funding deficiencies in our current state conservation programs. It also emphasizes that water quality is not solely the responsibility of agriculture – and that we all have a role to play to make improvements.
“So what should our next steps be? Let’s start with a single, but not simple, long-term solution. In order to address complex and long-lasting water quality problems, the state needs to make a serious commitment to funding conservation and water quality initiatives. In addition to financial resources, this will require bipartisan political will. This is entirely possible, as demonstrated by Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and several other states that have created conservation funds.
“A 2004 DATCP analysis estimated implementation costs of [state agricultural performance standards] to be $39.5 million annually on the low end, and $63.5 million on the high end. Adjusted for 2019 dollars, that’s between $52.7 million and $84.7 million per year, just to implement the performance standards.
“There are steps we can take in the short-term that will improve water quality. First, fully fund county conservation staffing and support grants at a baseline amount of $12.4 million annually, recognizing this as the minimum amount of funding that allows counties to provide basic conservation services.
“Second, provide adequate funding to support groundwater mapping, education, and outreach. Wisconsin is lucky to have institutions such as the Geological and Natural History Survey and the UWSP Center for Watershed Science and Education, which provide top-notch science and research, but also provide vital outreach to the general public on groundwater issues.
“Lastly, support the clean water initiatives in the Governor’s proposed budget, specifically increases in DATCP bonding for the cost-share from $3.5 million to $5 million annually. Especially during the current farm crisis, providing financial assistance to farmers to implement conservation practices is essential. Not only does it help build long-term profitability, but it helps farmers do the right thing to protect land and water.”
The public hearing on Wednesday was the second meeting of the Task Force and heard invited testimony from other organizations including the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, the Wisconsin Farmers Union, Wisconsin Conservation Voters, Clean Wisconsin, Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, Wisconsin Water Quality Association. The Task Force plans to hold public listening tours around Wisconsin in the coming weeks. For those locations and dates, as well as more information about the Task Force, visit its webpage here.
WI Land+Water’s provided testimony is in alignment with two Floor Resolutions, Request for Legislative Council Study to Improve Water Quality while Supporting Wisconsin Agriculture, (March 16, 2018) and Request for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at UW-Madison and UW-Extension to Develop Nitrogen Application Rate Guidelines for Groundwater Protection (March 15, 2019), passed at WI Land+Water’s Annual Business Meetings.
Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association is a nonprofit organization that supports the local and statewide efforts of all county Land Conservation Committee supervisors and conservation staff across Wisconsin. It is our mission to support the county conservationists that help landowners and users meet their objectives, while protecting our common economic and environmental infrastructure – land and water resources.
Click here to watch the full public hearing.
June 22, 2021
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