CASCO, Wis. — Farmers and agricultural professionals from Kewaunee County gathered Tuesday morning at a local dairy to voice their commitment to agriculture, the community and the environment.
“We are committed to the belief that agriculture, a strong community and environmentalism can co-exist. Farms are an important part of our local communities,” said Lee Kinnard, the fifth generation of his family to farm in the county. “We take pride in being part of that 1.7 percent of the U.S. population that feeds everyone else in the country and we also take pride in protecting the environment.”
Research shows that human and bovine waste is finding its way into wells in Kewaunee County.
Dr. Mark Borchardt, a microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, shared those findings during a presentation earlier this year at the 2017 Midwest Manure Summit in Green Bay. In a study funded by the Department of Natural Resources, Borchardt and his team used DNA sequencing to identify bacteria and pathogens in different Kewaunee County wells to determine if they came from cows or people.
The county has been ground zero in Wisconsin in the battle between some residents and large-scale farmers. In 2014, six environmental groups petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate groundwater contamination in the county. The DNR then brought together farmers, neighbors, environmental groups and government officials to find strategies to reduce groundwater pollution risk.
“There has been a lot of finger pointing and politics going on regarding water in Kewaunee County so we took a closer look at this issue to determine the source of the pollution,” Borchardt said. “The evidence shows both people and cows are contaminating the groundwater in Kewaunee County.”