GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) - Today 400 dairy leaders from around the state gathered in our area for an annual meeting.
Those farmers were met with protestors in Green Bay.
"In Kewaunee County 30% of the wells tested have tested positive for e. coli and nitrates making it unsafe to drink" says Lynn Utesch a member of Kewaunee CARES.
The citizen group voiced concerns about large farms called "concentrated animal feeding operations" or CAFOs.
They are defined by the state as having 715 or more milking cows.
"The bigger you get the more problems you have. It just produces way too much manure for the land we have in Northeast Wisconsin" says Utesch.
Wisconsin has about 240 CAFOs including Pagel's Ponderosa in Kewaunee County.
"I understand what their concerns are, and our concerns are the same as theirs. We want clean water, clean air, healthy animals" says John Pagel, owner of Pagel's Ponderosa. "They just don't understand that we can do it even being on a large farm".
The protesters say their drinking water is susceptible to contamination.
"We have karst topography in a lot of areas, which means the bedrock is like swiss cheese" explains Jim Olson, another member of Kewaunee CARES.
However, large farms like Pagel's are held to strict guidelines when spreading manure.
"They cannot haul on anything that is not two feet to bedrock. Everybody else regardless of the size of the farm can haul wherever they want. We are restricted, we have stronger rules but we're ok with that" says Pagel who currently milks 4,500 cows.
Pagel's Ponderosa is open for public tours. John welcomes anyone with questions or concerns to come and get answers straight from the source.
"As the dairy industry continues to shrink, we have less and less farms, they continue to get larger. It is important to educate our consumer so they have the confidence they've always had in Wisconsin agriculture" he says.
"We are not against farming" says Olson. "We would just like to tell farmers to do the right thing".
The event today in Green Bay was not only attended by large farms, some only have 50 cows.
Organizers say the expansion symposium is not only about literarily growing your farm, it is about growing the dairy industry overall.