From Associated Press:

John Adams can’t see the nearly 3,000 cows on the dairy farm two miles from his Wisconsin home, but when the wind blows he can smell them.

The stench gives him and his wife headaches. They blame the big farm for contaminating their air and polluting the groundwater well they use for drinking, bathing and watering their garden. They no longer feel safe eating the vegetables they grow.

Adams also blames the state, which requires local governments to grant permits to large farms that meet certain limited criteria, even if there are additional environmental concerns. The rural farming town where he lives tried to impose stricter rules, only to be overruled by the state agriculture department.

Adams and seven neighbors, along with the town of Magnolia, sued the state and the farm in the first case of its kind to reach a state supreme court and the result could set a precedent throughout the Midwest. Similar cases have been filed in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio and Oklahoma, and two juries in Missouri have already handed out multimillion-dollar awards to homeowners who complained of intolerable odors from so-called factory farms.

At the same time, several states have passed or are considering laws that would make it easier for big farms to get permits. Lawmakers say the move creates uniformity, allowing farms to expand under predictable circumstances, and strengthens one of the few industries that didn’t tank in the recession.

Critics argue the laws deprive residents of a voice.

“A township should have the right to establish guidelines to keep its people safe, but it doesn’t,” said Adams, 61. “Those of us who are being affected, it’s like there’s nothing we can do.”

The owner of the big farm, Mike Larson, supports the state law. Consistency across the state makes it easier for farmers to expand and, in turn, strengthens the dairy industry in the nation’s No. 2 milk-producing state, he said.

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