On April 1, Representative Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) introduced legislation (LRB-2259/1) that would overturn the state’s mandatory premises registration law for anyone keeping livestock on their property. Wisconsin is one of two states that require premises identification by statute or regulation with Indiana being the other. A third state, Michigan, has required mandatory premises ID for cattle farmers by administrative fiat.
In a press release issued the day the bill was introduced, Suder noted that the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has the authority to create exemptions to the premises registration requirement through the rule-making process. He said that DATCP has not issued any exemptions to the requirement, breaking a promise the agency made to the legislature in 2004 when the Premises Registration Act became law. Suder’s bill would make the livestock premises registration program voluntary.
Suder introduced his bill in response to a recent enforcement action DATCP took against Cumberland cattle farmer Pat Monchilovich. On February 25, Polk County District Attorney Dan Steffen filed a complaint against Monchilovich and his wife Melissa, seeking civil forfeiture for refusing to register his premises with the state. Under Wisconsin law, those not complying with the premises identification mandate “may be required to forfeit” up to $5,000. On March 17, the Monchiloviches pleaded not guilty to the charge filed against them. A meeting between the couple and District Attorney Steffen has been scheduled for April 28.
In the farmer’s words, “I am opposed to Premises ID and NAIS. I feel the costs incurred by the farmers will far outweigh the rewards. NAIS will not increase food supply. It is only a tracking system and we already have those in place.”
The civil forfeiture complaint against the Monchiloviches is the second time DATCP has taken action against a farmer refusing to comply with the premises identification requirement. On October 2, 2008, Clark County District Attorney Darwin Zweig filed a complaint seeking civil forfeiture against Amish farmer Emanuel Miller of Loyal who refused the premises ID number because taking it would violate his religious beliefs [see the 11/23/09 posting]. Miller’s hearing on the charge has yet to take place.
Like many others, Rep. Suder is questioned the wisdom of the enforcement actions against Miller and the Monchiloviches saying, “At a time when many family farms are struggling to keep the barn doors open, now is not the time for the state to be threatening farmers who refuse to register their farms with a lawsuit. In an economic crisis where every job counts and every business matters, we should be doing everything we can to protect our farmers, not threatening them with lawsuits that could very well put them out of business.”
For the bill to be assigned to committee, it needs co-sponsors. Rep. Suder has stated that the deadline to get co-sponsors for the bill is 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, April 15. He has asked the bill’s supporters to call, fax and/or mail members of the Legislature immediately to ask them to co-sponsor LRB-2259/1.
Click here to find contact information for Wisconsin legislators. Rep. Suder has asked that legislators contact him directly to co-sponsor the bill [by phone (888)534-0069 or by email at Rep.Suder@legis.state.wi.us].