A Wisconsin farming couple that leads an anti-dairy farmer campaign and recently won a friend-of-the-environment award was investigated by the state for complaints that they allowed their cattle to contaminate a wetland.
The agency had received “multiple complaints” against Lynn and Nancy Utesch, according to state Department of Natural Resources records.
Nancy Utesch, who owns a beef farm with her husband in the Town of Pierce in Kewaunee County, initially refused to allow inspectors to check the full property, the documents show.
The most recent complaint, received by the county Land and Water Conservation Department on April 14, was “for cattle having full access to waters of the state, resulting in direct discharges to the waters…”
Investigators met heavy resistance when they suggested they would need to examine other parts of the 150-acre farm that might contribute to manure running into the wetland.
Nancy Utesch “was adamant that (the DNR) would not be able to inspect the farm” until she got more information about the complaint, according to an April 22 email from the DNR inspector.
The inspector told Utesch that “the purpose was to determine compliance with state runoff rules.”
Inspectors were able to examine the property nearly 10 days after the complaint and were unable to identify direct discharge.
Under the umbrella of the activist group Kewaunee Cares, the Utesches repeatedly have attacked farmers with large-scale dairies. They and fellow activists from outside the state point to complaints made against farms, even though some of the complaints are unfounded.
The couple also points to voluntary and limited well tests as evidence that 30 percent of the private drinking wells in the county are unsuitable for use.
In reality, only 620 of the county’s 4,600 wells (13 percent) have been tested during the past decade, according to county officials. Of those, 180 (4 percent) were found to have elevated levels of unsafe substances. How much of those substances come from septic systems, farms and other sources has not been fully determined.