Fish Farms Get a Break from Water Regs under Republican Bill

January 12, 2016

Fish

The state’s influential agriculture and restaurant industries are among the special interests backing a GOP bill that would reduce regulations on fish farms.

The measure, Senate Bill 493, would: expand the permissible bodies of water where fish farms can be built; loosen requirements on the amount of water that dams on fish farms may control or discharge; exempt man-made ponds, wetlands, and roads on fish farms from Department of Natural Resources permits; and make fish farms eligible for low-interest state loans.

The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Tom Tiffany, of Hazelhurst, and Rep. Mary Czaja, of Irma, could affect more than 200 fish farms in Wisconsin.

The measure’s chief support comes from agriculture, restaurant, and fish farm interests, which contributed more than $1 million between January 2011 and June 2015 to majority Republican lawmakers who control the Assembly and Senate by comfortable margins.

Tiffany accepted nearly $24,000 and Czaja about $8,800 from agriculture, restaurant, and fish farm interests between January 2011 and June 2015.

Tiffany’s top contributors from these special interests were Mike Wolter, of Antigo, owner of Riverside Farms, $1,500; Glen Wolter, of Bryant, owner of Hyland Lakes Spuds, $1,300; and Deborah and Timothy O’Harrow, of Oconto Falls, owners of O’Harrows dairy farm, $1,250.

Czaja’s top contributors from these special interests were Mike Wolter, $700; and Judy and John Schroeder, of Antigo, owners of Schroeder Brothers Farms, $700.

The only contributor among fish farm owners to both Tiffany and Czaja was James Augustyn, of Antigo, owner of James Augustyn Springs, who gave $1,050 to Tiffany, and $350 to Czaja.