Proposed changes to Rice County feedlot ordinance

Rice Cty MFU 005
Stephanie Hendrickson sent me this photo (click to enlarge) and accompanying text of she and her colleagues…

…conducting our Rice County Farmers Union Convention dinner meeting at Perkins in Faribault Oct. 17. We passed a resolution to forward to Rice County Commissioners in opposition to proposed changes to County Feedlot Ordinance (raising of size limit and removing setback from feedlot to neighboring home).

See the Oct. 10 Northfield New article titled County agrees to changes in proposed feedlot code.

After weeks of discussion and two public informational meetings in early September, the board has scheduled a public hearing for their final proposal at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 15 at the Commissioner’s Room of the Government Services Building, 320 N.W. Third St., Faribault. The main changes to the ordinance to date are a reduction in the minimum size for large feedlots; an increase in the animal units allowed; reduction or elimination in setback requirements; and restriction of manure spreading.

“I think the setbacks are creating a huge problem for us,” said Sammon.  Commissioner Galen Malecha held his ground and didn’t agree to the revision on setbacks. Nor did he agree to the proposal made by Kim Halvorson on Oct. 2 to increase the animal unit limit from 1,500 to 2,000. Malecha said he has had a lot of people question the animal unit increase.

58 Comments

  1. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Looks like it’s left to me to start out this conversation…

    Redistricting (3 years ago?) resulted in new county commissioner districts. The new plan was largely the reason we lost two good women on the board, Heather Robins and Marybeth Rogers.

    Many residents are still unaware who represents them. Could someone post the district map?

    Commissioner Jake Gillen’s (Dist 1) runs all along the east side of the county from north to south, including parts of Northfield and Faribault. He and Milt Plaisance (Dist 3) are farmers, the other three are not. Two farmer members of the Planning Commission were included in the feedlot ordinance working group (Keith Sammon and Kim Halvorson) dominated the discussions along with Milt Plaisance. In addition, they all had voting rights on the changes going into the draft that will be presented for public hearing on Nov. 15.

    The “big four” changes that are worrisome are these:

    *reduction in minimum size of a feedlot from 15 acres to 5
    *removing restriction on spreading manure on slopes over 12%
    *raising feedlot size limit from 1500 animal units to 2000
    *eliminating setback from feedlot manure structures to neighboring home

    The last two were put into the draft AFTER the public information meetings on Sept. 11-12, with comment period ending Sept. 18. In fact, it was stated at these meetings that there would be NO change in size limit.

    The Faribault Daily News reporter who generally covers the County Board, Tom Hammell, left the paper and we were without coverage for some of the time. Megan Proft of Northfield News is temporarily covering it.

    October 25, 2007
  2. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Thanks for the district map and website. We are down to 10 days now, before the public hearing before the Rice County Planning Commission Thursday, Nov. 15 on the feedlot ordinance changes. Letters to the editor and calls to the commissioners are critical in the coming days.

    Ten years ago, the feedlot issue was front and center. But now with the crisis at City Hall in Northfield dominating the news, It is hard to get any attention to it. Plans are in the works for a press conference sometime Monday morning, Nov. 12, in Faribault. Hopefully that will get some information out to the public.

    Before the information meetings of Sept. 11 and 12, county commissoners spoke of reducing setbacks from feedlots to cities and town. Northfield, Dundas and Nerstrand objected.

    The board then turned their attention to stripping out the setback to neighboring homes. Perhaps they think rural people will not catch on until it’s too late. We shall see.

    November 5, 2007
  3. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    URGENT: Carpool to LWV press conference tomorrow

    Anybody who read Sam Sunderlin’s opinion on the baffling feedlot ordinance changes will understand the urgency of getting media attention to this before the public hearing Thursday night, Nov. 15.

    One way to help is to attend the LWV press conference tomorrow Tuesday, 12:30 pm on the steps at Govt Services Bldg in Faribault. That notice is on same pages of Saturday paper. It will last 25-30 minutes.

    Carpools:

    Cindy Terpstra 645-6787 will take riders from UCC Church, 300 Union, leaving 11:30 am, returning 1 pm.

    Patti Haskins 645-6489 leaving from her house 306 Nevada at ll:45 am. Can also pick up riders if you call.

    Or call me with words of encouragement. I’m feeling no better than my dog, at this point. Black lab, one year old, dying of kidney/liver failure from something she may have eaten last weekend. She’s a fighter, though. Just hanging on.

    November 12, 2007
  4. Chris Sullivan said:

    For those of you who attended, and those who organized it, Thank you. the press conference on the proposed feedlot changes was very informative. We heard from a representative of the Isaak Walton League about the number of already occuring manure spills in the state of Minnesota (something like 900?)–he urged the county to maintain a more restrictive standard with regard to setbacks and feedlot size. And from Dr. Thorne, about the risks of anti-biotic resistant bacteria. Susannah Ciernia said that a study published last week in Scandanavia found that hog farmers were 740% more likely to be carrying the MRSA superbug which they can then expose everyone else to. Those were the facts that jumped out at me. Anyone else?

    November 14, 2007
  5. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    URGENT
    Feedlots: public hearing tonight Thursday, Nov. 15, 7:30 pm at Govt Services Bldg in Faribault.

    Citizens will be addressing the seven members of the Planning Commission who will then make recommendation to the County Board. Three of the seven (Kim Halverson, Keith Sammon and Ross Nelson), had a hand in devising the changes at work sessions. My guess is that the other four may be more willing to listen to consituents:

    Gordon Kelley Dundas 663-6068
    Jessica Peterson Nfld 612-366-8311
    Chancy Tutak Fbo [cell phone removed by request]
    Commissioner Jim Brown Lonsdale 744-4500

    Commissioner Milt Plaisance has stated that the board, not the people, make the ultimate decision. We’ll see if he is in the audience tonight.

    November 15, 2007
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    On the front of the South section in today’s Strib, reporter Jon Tevlin has an article titled Past, present and future collide in Rice County.

    A proposal to relax regulations for those farmers is being debated by county commissioners. If approved, it would become easier to build more and smaller feedlots that could, intentionally or not, repel the steady encroachment of the south metro area on rural life.

    The issue, which could hit other rural areas as the Twin Cities continue to sprawl, makes for odd friends and foes. Environmentalists, developers and hobby farmers could find themselves standing against lifelong farmers who say they are looking for small parcels of land where their kids can carry on the family business.

    Stephanie Henriksen, president of the Rice County Farmers Union and regular commenter here on Locally Grown, is quoted in the piece.

    What did you think of the story, Stephanie?

    November 26, 2007
  7. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Can you post the link so I can read it?

    November 26, 2007
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    The link is in my comment, Stephanie. If you’re reading the comments via email, you probably have to visit our blog to click it. Or just visit the Strib site and search ‘northfield’.

    November 26, 2007
  9. Angel Dobrow said:

    I am a little surprised there is not more discussion re: these proposed feedlot changes on this blog-site. I was a part of the summer heroin discussion, and Whew! we all had a lot to say about that!

    Can we draw connections? Here is mine–someone (or something) else is making decisions that impact me immediately, directly, and harmfully. Who is driving this out-of-control vehicle: Chief Smith? Mayor Lansing? One of the Holdens? the School Board? the (possibly profiteering) County Commissioners?

    If parents, educators, and others say there is a drug problem among our youth–let’s DEAL with it. (aside: big kudos to recently organized public discussion.) We are in charge of our families and communities. If county residents, small farmers, and parents say unchecked growth is harmful, then let’s STOP all further ag (and housing!) development until we can, as a group, agree on a set of principles that reflects our consenual view. Like sustainability, improved quality of life, etc.

    Can we organize neighborhood-based town meetings? I would be less worried about efficiency than quality of discussion. What’s the rush? What’s the time-line…the quality of life for future generations.

    November 27, 2007
  10. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I implore anyone reading this to call Planning Commission members I listed in my comment here of Nov. 15. Ask them to make a motion to open up discussion of feedlot SIZE LIMIT tomorrow night, Nov. 29, 7:30 again at Govt Services Bldg. Straw poll of members on this and the minimum size of 5 acres on Nov. 15 indicate it’s likely they will OK those and limit discussion just to the soils issue and setback before making their recommendation to the County Commissoners.

    Gillen, in particular, has said that he will base his vote on size increase on whether there is a lot of support for it at the public hearing.

    Those supporting gutting the feedlot ordinance turned out in force on Nov.15 and they will again tomorrow night.

    November 28, 2007
  11. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Request for help

    Could someone following this discussion go in to Just Foods this afternoon and get the petition against the changes on the legal pad at the first checkout counter, add your name to it and the names of anyone else standing around. Make 7 copies and bring it to the public hearing tonite Thursday, 7:30pm at Govt Services Bldg in Faribault.

    Vice chair Keith Sammon (who we assume is again chairing the hearing) has told at least one person that there will be public comment again, so if you see a sign-in pad, sign in and be prepared to go to the mic and read the short petition language and hand it forward.

    I can no longer do so much of the work (they ignore it). Need a new person. Thanks.

    November 29, 2007
  12. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Faribault Daily News and KDHL radio will have stories today on the goings on last night at the Rice Cty Planning Commission. Won some, lost some. More on that later.

    Chancy Tutak, newest member of the Planning Commission, said several times last night during discussion that he had been bothered during work hours because someone posted his cell phone to a blog. I am guilty (see message the day of the first hearing, Nov. 15). With time running out before the hearing that night, I simply used poor judgment, and I apologize. Thanks for removing it, Griff. Let this be a lesson to me.

    November 30, 2007
  13. Stephanie – You’ve done a lot of good work on this, as always, ahead of the curve on issues, as always, we’re a lot better off for your work.

    Cell phone – ????? – I don’t see any need to apologize. If cell phone is his contact phone, or even if it’s not, I don’t think giving it out is a problem — it facilitates public contact. He’s a big boy who can turn his phone off at work or set it to vibrate (where every call is a thrill!). I haven’t heard of abusive harassing calls. It sounds like people were calling to make their thoughts and feelings known, and public officials need to hear from constituents. If the number of calls make him uncomfortable, hmmm, what does that say? It says people care about this issue, and he and all the Commissioners need to pay attention. Ring on!

    November 30, 2007
  14. Richard Osborne said:

    Thank you, Stephanie Henriksen, for your hard work on getting the word out about the proposed feedlot changes. I look forward to hearing more from you and others who attended the Planning Commission hearing on 11/29. It was nice of Stephanie to apologize to Planning Commissioner Chancy, but I agree with Carol that no apology was needed. Chancy is a public official, and therefore getting called on his cell phone by the Rice County citizens he serves is the chance that Chancy takes. I don’t know what Chancy’s position is on this matter, but I can guess it from his reaction. I suspect that if hed gotten calls on his cell phone telling him that he was doing a great job and that his position on the feedlot issue was A-OK, we wouldn’t be hearing him complaining!

    November 30, 2007
  15. Chancy Tutak said:

    I just want to say that I dont have my own cell phone. The cell phone number is a work phone. I am not using up my own minutes. The contractor is giving me a cell phone for work purposes. My name is listed in the yellow pages and I would be glad to hear from you after work. Its a private number and not a public number.

    November 30, 2007
  16. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Highlights of Thursday Nov. 29 hearing

    When the meeting came to a close, the setback from manure structure to a neighboring home was restored, language on soil loss was adopted, minimum acreage was at 5 (very bad) and many people in the audience, including a reporter, thought we had kept the 1500 au size limit but under the state au designations.

    Wrong. After much discussion on the size cap, with the aid of an Animal Unit Chart we submitted showing totals for comparison, most members, including Keith Sammon, were moving to the compromise (stay with 1500 au, while adopting the state animal unit designations which resulted in generous increases in most livestock categories). Then Kim Halverson called foul, saying she had no reason to believe the data on the sheet. A break of 5-10 minutes was called in order for staff to verify the numbers (they were correct). The group came back and through a series of complicated motions, we’re back at 2000 au under the state au equivalent. I’m wondering how much arm twisting went on during the break.

    I gave Ross Currier the AU Chart on Friday and he said you could put it on the blog here, Griff. The far right column in pink is what we got, the middle column in pink type was the compromise. Jessica Peterson, Jim Brown and Gordon Kelley deserve much credit for their efforts. Final vote on the changes to the Rice County Feedlot Ordinance is by the County Board, possibly Dec. 11.

    December 1, 2007
  17. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I can’t find this discussion on the sidebar anymore (?) I know you’re busy, Griff, but we need the animal unit chart . County commissioners and staff have been suppressing this information. Neither of the newspapers has printed it. It is critical to have this information available to anyone concerned. We have only this weekend to get the word out before the Cty Board vote on the feedlot ordinance changes Tuesday morning, Dec. 11.

    December 6, 2007
  18. Angel Dobrow said:

    Although my understanding is that public discussion has ended regarding the feedlot (public discussion at the Rice County Courthouse that is) we still can contact our Commissioners to voice opinions on two outstanding resolutions: 1) reduce feedlot required acreage from the current 15 acres down to 5 (!), and 2) increase the number of animals allowed per acre.

    Tuesday a.m.’s vote, if our registered protests are considerable AND considered, has the potential to prevent a future battle when feedlots stop popping up everywhere!

    What I really want to see is a more active discussion about land use, small farmers that get to do old-time farming, manure, top soil erosion, and our scary water quality (think e-coli signs mid-summer at Big Woods State Park.)

    See you Tuesday.

    December 7, 2007
  19. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Tune in KDHL 920 AM radio now (AM Minnesota 9:30 am )

    Gordy Kosfeld call-in program on feedlot ordinance changes which come to a vote Tuesday morning, Dec. 11. 507-333-4222

    Commissioner Jim Brown, Wade Schulz (feedlot officer) and Trent McCorkell, zoning administrator are on air!!

    December 7, 2007
  20. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    ALERT: Call county commissioners today before their vote on feedlot ordinance changes tomorrow morning, Tues. Dec. 11, sometime after 8:30 am.

    1) Ask that they keep the feedlot size limit at 1500 au (not 2000 au)
    2) Ask that they go back to the minimum acreage of 15 acres (not 5)

    Steve Bauer 507-334-9700.
    Jake Gillen 507-334-5746
    Galen Malecha 507-645-6041
    Milt Plaisance 507-334-7612
    Jim Brown 507-744-4500

    On Nov. 29, Rice County Planning Commission recommended restoring the setback to a neighbor and adopting ceratin soil loss language. We hope those recommendations hold.

    December 10, 2007
  21. BruceWMorlan said:

    Angel, you wrote:

    What I really want to see is a more active discussion about land use, small farmers that get to do old-time farming, manure, top soil erosion, and our scary water quality (think e-coli signs mid-summer at Big Woods State Park.).

    This is a bit beyond the scope of this particular discussion, but it does represent a foundational discussion that would address the foundational beliefs we want to see followed by our reps. The principles I am wrestling with deal with:

    Ownership issues. The person who owns the land must have the right to use it. We cannot simply rule out of play uses that we don’t like, whether it’s a private gun range or a feedlot or an unharvested growth of trees.

    “Water rights”. Just because you live upstream of me does not give you the right to dump sewage into the creek we share. Should we extend this to “air rights”? Do we want to start fighting over “airsheds” (analogous to “watersheds”). How far upwind do you want to reach, most of the mercury in Minnesota lakes comes from power plants in China (according to what I picked up as part of CRWP’s task force on such thngs). Then, don’t even get me started on “viewsheds“; every time someone wants to change the look of their land we see lots of NIMBY’s who think they own not only their land, but also the beautiful valley they look out on.

    Fair compensation for “takings”. When governments take away property value by limiting its use, they often find that they are guilty of a “taking”. This in turn sets them up for lawsuits. This is fair and just (see the 4th (“right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures) and 14th amendments (“nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law“). Balance that with eminent domain and we can keep lawyers rich from now to eternity. That’s why I would like to see the concept of selling development rights (as currently used in TDRs) used to remove the feedlot from Bridgewater township (where I live). Just buy ’em up now and solve the issue without shedding a lot of legal blood. Play nice.

    The trick is to get such a dialog going now, and resolve the issues in the comprehensive plans and codes before someone shows up wanting to do something ugly. Bridgewater undertook its own planning and zoning in part because even the county was too removed to be a good steward of the land in the township. Now they are working hard to close the loopholes before they end up in court (again).

    December 10, 2007
  22. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Interesting ideas here, Bruce. Would your TDR plan mean that if I have a feedlot registerd with the county, I could transfer that (sell it) to another location where a feedlot wants to start up or expand? Are you presently living near an active feedlot yourself? How big is it?

    December 10, 2007
  23. Chris Sullivan said:

    Bruce: I appreciated your thoughtful comments about the recent feedlot debate and wanted to share some of the information I’ve gathered in my research.

    Property Ownership: I agree that people should be able to enjoy their property until it infringes on the rights of others to enjoy theirs. It’s an old principle in our country. The courts in various states are beginning to agree with this position with regard to CAFOs.

    “In September, 1998, the Iowa Supreme Court …found that a bad stench
    from hog manure can be the equivalent of a physical invasion and therefore a violation of property rights. In essence, the court said, the government had been allowing hog farms to take odor easements across their neighbors’ property without compensation or due process.” From Amber Waves of Gain.

    So, in this case, it is the CAFO operator that is doing the taking, not the government. Courts have ruled that farmers must compensate their neighbors when this happens.

    Furthermore, that “taking” can result in reduced property values for residences nearby. Read this from Agrilaw.

    “The Nebraska Court of Appeals recently considered a property tax appeal by a tax payer living within one mile of a hog farrowing facility housing 5,200 hogs. The tax payer’s position, supported by expert appraisal evidence, was that the hog farrowing facility and associated manure spreading would result in at least a 30% reduction in the assessed value of his property. In allowing the tax payers appeal from an earlier decision of a review tribunal which had upheld the higher assessment, the Court concluded:

    “No reasonable fact finder could conclude that in the real estate marketplace, a potential buyer would not notice, and react economically, to having a large hog facility very nearby while living in a remote location. Thus, the (review tribunal’s) decision upholding that valuation was arbitrary and capricious.”

    In coming to this decision, the Court determined that, for the purpose of property tax assessment, a property must be assessed at market value and not cost. Essential to the consideration of market value is “the affect of the house’s location next to a hog facility and manure easement.” The Court stated:

    “The whole concept of determining value must assume both a willing buyer and seller…In the context of negotiations between a willing buyer and seller to arrive at fair market value, the neighbouring hog facility and the house’s location would unquestionably affect the market value of (the taxpayer’s) house. Any other conclusion would mean that two identical houses, one located next to the railroad switching yard and the other next to the country club golf course, have identical values – an obviously arbitrary and illogical conclusion that no reasonable person would reach…. ”

    I think when it comes to the powerful odors and toxic gases that are emitted from CAFOs we are talking about a similar concept to water rights. If you go online and do some research about odors from large confined animal operations you’ll discover that we are not just talking about a few “scents” on the air–we’re talking about hydrogen sulfide gas so powerful that when accidents have occured in the manure holding pits where someone has slipped and fallen in, often, not only does that person die, but so do all the rescuers who try to go in after them. That’s why this is such a serious issue.

    The sad thing is that there are not very many super large operators in the county. And, they seem to be driving policy for everyone else. If the restrictions are loosened up, we may get more and bigger operations in our county. Is that what we want?

    Companies like Niman Ranch are searching for pork producers who raise pigs on pasture or on deep-beeded straw systems. These are humane, odor is low, manure is solid and can be used to rejuvenate the soil, and Niman Ranch pays a premium for this product. For those of you who don’t know, Niman Ranch supplies the big chain Chipotle. There ARE better ways to raise livestock that pay farmers what they deserve for a quality product and that the neighbors can live with.

    December 10, 2007
  24. BruceWMorlan said:

    Stephanie,

    My proposed “TDR-like” system was so the citizens would have a visible mechanism for justly compensating landowners so retire the rights to run “feedlot” operations on their land. Like a TDR, the landowner would be compensated for giving up that right. I did not see this so much as a mechanism for moving the rights to another location, so calling it a TDR was misleading.

    I am all for pastured animals, and would like to see even existing feedlots converted, but I am totally opposed for both ethical and legal reasons to simply passing a law that forces them out of business.

    Chris, your extensive post is very very well researched, cool! The Spanish hog industry recently got some press for its use of pastured hogs fed on acorns. They get quite a premium for such meat. Ref: What Can the United States Learn from Spain’s Pork Sector?
    Implications from a Comparative Economic Analysis
    and Overview of Alternatives (to factory farming).

    My dilemma is that I am also a property rights type, but Chris’s report of “odorsheds” (akin to watersheds, airsheds, viewsheds, etc) is an interesting bit of jujitsu that redefines property rights not only as the land but also the quality of life on that land. The problem is that simply redefining the land rights to extend to these new realms takes value from land (the development is constrained) while enhancing the value of the other land (because the quality of living there is enhanced by the restrictions on the neighbor with respect to their property.

    I wonder if the township (Bridgewater, for example) could cut this Solomon-like down the middle, permitting a small number of animal units per acre without a feedlot permit (getting away from feedlot concentrations) in exchange for protecting that lower density operation from complaints by “city folk” who move to the country then complain about the “smell of money”.

    December 12, 2007
  25. Chris Sullivan said:

    Thanks for your comments, Bruce. I, too, believe in property rights, but what I am resisting is this notion that there is only one way to farm, and that is the industrial model. As a society we proscribe certain land uses all the time and maybe what we need to do is designate “industrial parks” for industrial agriculture since it seems to be incompatible with home ownership : ) Even for the farmers who own the CAFOs…. Just an idea. What I would rather see are economic incentives (carrots) to pay farmers to produce food that is healthy in all aspects of the word.

    I am also resisting the “zero-sum” thinking that has plagued the wider discussion–that what I want takes something away from what “they” want. I don’t believe that’s true. I think if we are creative enough and respectful of each others’ hopes and fears we can find a middle path forward. How’s that for a plan?

    December 12, 2007
  26. BruceWMorlan said:

    Chris, We are probably on the same page. I have asked/suggested that Bridgewater create a new agricultural zone for sustainable farms. My thoughts are to use existing tools to offset some of the disadvantages small farmers face. For example, creating non-profit entities or using existing ones to buy and hold development rights so the land stays in that new zoning category (don’t get me started on how governments cannot be trusted with THAT responsibility). The trick is to keep it local and use education to convert local landowners one section at a time. No one wants the county or the state running these programs from their remote, city-oriented nests. Finally, my objective is to win this battle once, rather than having to re-fight it every time the land changes hands. Leif Knecht (Bridgwater supervisor) ran promising that his goal was to keep 85% (or so) of the existing farmland in farming production for the next 100 years. I say YES!, but lets not do that at the expense of quality land conserving methods, and lets not lose our water quality because we forget to watch that detail.

    December 12, 2007
  27. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Anybody recovered enough from the Tuesday morning Rice County Board Meeting to post an account of the feedlot ordinance action here?

    Yes, it was embarrassing to watch, as the editorial in Faribault Daily pointed out today. But I commend the commissioners, Galen Malecha in particular, for moving to table it for a future meeting when they could be more prepared. As I see it, the problem is really in the wording and staff presentation of the resolutions. If each of the major changes had been dealt with separately first, things would have turned out differently.

    I do not believe the Board has taken too much time on this ordinance revision. The famous feedlot ordinance of 1996 took at least two years to develop. It is an undertaking of some complexity.

    Commissioner Galen Malecha deserves our thanks for voting NO on the first resolution when all the others voted YES, not realizing what they were voting on.

    And Chairman Jake Gillen should be commended for grasping, however late, the problem with the proposed 5-acre minimum.

    December 13, 2007
  28. Bruce Morlan said:

    Chris,

    Now is a great opportunity for you and Stephanie to put together a point paper that is condensed but to the point, listing the principles that drive you to the conclusion you reach, showing how you protect existing operations while “retiring” feedlots from Bridgewater township. Perhaps talk with one of the township board members to find out how to have a proposed appendix full of the usual WHEREAS …” language.

    I’d be willing to meet with a small group and expand on what I mean if someone else can do the heavy lifting of finding footnotes, references, etc. and it looks to me like you already have that information. I am a full believer in some things: I’ll claim that property rights are sacrosanct if you let me extend rights to include some of the boundary crossing issues like non-point emissions, odor and noise. But given that, farms are farms and the smell of money is just a fact of life in the country. But the level and intensity of feedlots exceeds what Bridgewater residents might want to experience and I think we have enough farmers that agree with that such that we can set a new standard for ourselves without just taking away from existing operations.

    It really gets me going when the feds, the state or the county try to impose their standards because I know that they are too remote to understand that a small community like Bridgewater might know more what they need than a remote centralized group does. And diversity between townships is probably a good extension of our experiment (running since 1776) in being a representative republic, and re-grabbing the reins might be our (Bridgewater’s) best long term strategy.

    December 16, 2007
  29. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Right now, all I can do is prepare for what I think the commissioners will discuss in Tuesday’s work session from about 10:10 am to 11:30. I think Gillen will want to go back to the reasoning for the 5-acre minimum and then more discussion of the size increase in terms of animal unit definitions.

    Citizens have the chance for brief comment at the beginning, 8:30 am, on any agenda item. I think it’s late in the game to suggest any new direction, but anything that would make clear what unintended consequences may result from the changes under consideration would be helpful.

    December 16, 2007
  30. Angel Dobrow said:

    I agree that expressing public “discomfort” with these proposed changes is needed immediately, keeping pressure on the Commissioners to move cautiously and with intention. I have also been thinking about a series of discussions here in Northfield to process a) what has happened, b) what is planned to happen, and then c) is that what we want?

    Stepping aside from John Adams and that bunch 🙂 I would like to point out that we Americans have conducted most discussion within a “property rights deal-breaker” mentality, and we have hit that wall dead-on with a splat. There is no more expansion, and redefining growth must include the idea that continuing as before includes the death of life as we know it. Not tomorrow, of course, but soon.

    Are we in this together means an agreed vision (version?) of the future and a plan of action. As local resolves national will follow.

    Many of this feedlot activists (I’ve met) are tired I think because they have been forced to react, react, react. I want to start a local movement to plan. We have invaluable people resources and computers!

    December 17, 2007
  31. BruceWMorlan said:

    Stephanie,

    What is our best strategy for using Bridgewater planning and zoning to impose tighter restrictions?

    What is the recommended acreage per animal (1.0, 0.1,0 .01) (according to, say, UofM extension services) for sustainable animal husbandry (pigs, horses, cattle). Not feedlots, sustainable pastured animals. A quick internet search (Google “stocking rate minnesota acres per cow” and you will find that sustainable stocking rates are almost always measured in “acres per cow”, rather than “cows per acre”. I suspect the same is true for pigs and horses (I think it is ~5 acres per horse in our area). If farms cannot survive at that size, then perhaps we (the locals who want that sort of production) need to provide a system of grants to help out. The township already slowed the speculative real estate bubble by focusing annexation into the area immediately around the cites, we now have an opportunity to bank over-intensively farmed but highly productive land into permanent and sustainable farming lands. We need to make speculation unattractive and farming pay.

    How valuable is concentrated animal waste as a fertilizer? (Each of the big three (cattle, pigs, horses) is different.) Why can’t we (in the face of rising fuel prices) encourage that all waste be handled in areas contiguous to the animals?

    How far from surface water does it have to be to give riparian plants a chance to filter it to acceptable levels? Non-point emissions are an example of why we need a dialog on the meaning of property rights.

    Defining the question in these terms might make it easier to make the point that the time for these factory operations is passed, and that the proper answer is not to figure out how to make it worse, but instead to figure out how to treat existing operations fairly while reducing the value of opening new operations by assessing them fairly for the true costs they represent.

    December 17, 2007
  32. Chris Sullivan said:

    Bruce,

    You ask some incredicbly important questions. I’m not sure I know the answers to all of them. I don’t know what stocking rates are for pastured animals, but it would be easy to find out. We have experts within our midst at our local sustainable farming association and places like the Land Stewardship program. Also, Thousand Hills Cattle Company has obviously worked out some workable and profitable model for beef. We also have a local office of the Animal Welfare Institute which has developed humane husbandry standards that combine the idea of working WITH animals’ natural instincts not against them to produce healthful meat for consumers. Diane and Marlene Halvorson are the experts there. Seems like those folks can help Bridgewater develop some standards that would be workable.

    The question of how valuable liquid manure is is problematic. While on the the one hand it is a good source of nitrogen, it is also a high source of potassium and phosphorus, and because it contains ALL those elements at once, it’s hard not to overapply elements like phosphorus–which then wash off if they are not used by plants. Also, I’d like to pass along an article that was shared with me about the public health impact of this kind of farming. It relates to the manure issue and odor issue and water and the idea of how far can emissions go before they must be regulated.

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-pigfarm1218,0,6285625.story
    clips

    Researchers cite mounting evidence, including recent studies by the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University, that pig and chicken farms can produce drug-resistant bacteria when animals regularly get antibiotics.

    Spread by fans from large feeding buildings, these supergerms can escape into the air, as well as to streams and underground drinking water supplies, potentially threatening the health of neighbors, according to the Maryland studies.

    University of Maryland microbiologist Amy Sapkota co-authored studies published in July 2007 and February 2005, both documenting antibiotic resistant bacteria escaping from an unidentified Mid-Atlantic hog operation.

    In one study, 98 percent of 124 bacteria samples collected from air inside a CAFO contained antibiotic resistant bacteria. In another, she found that streams and underground water supplies downhill from the farm had high levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including e-coli and fecal coliform. The movement of resistant bacteria from swine CAFOs into the environment “can be extensive,” her report concluded.

    In addition, a 2000 University of North Carolina survey of 155 people found increased rates of headaches, diarrhea, runny noses, sore throats, coughing, digestive problems and breathing ailments among those who lived near CAFO hog farms.

    A study published in August by University of Illinois researchers in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, found that feeding the antibiotic tetracycline to hogs created drug-resistant genes that were passed like batons from one bacterial species to another, with the supergerms escaping into ground water.

    Another report published by Canadian scientists in October linked routine use of antibiotics in hog feed to the spread of antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus bacteria among both pigs and farm workers. Research in the Netherlands in 2005 and 2006 also found the spread of antibiotic-resistant staph among hog farmers and pigs.

    The problem might extend beyond pig farms. Half of 16 poultry workers recently examined in Maryland and Virginia were carrying antibiotic resistant e-coli bacteria, suggesting chicks receiving the drugs pose a disease threat, according to a study published yesterday by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

    Dr. Robert Lawrence, director of the Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, said antibiotic resistance is aggravated by living conditions in CAFOs, where bacteria spread easily with thousands of animals close together.

    http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/2007/12/17/health-reasons-to-cut-back-on-corn-consumption.html
    The bulk of the nation’s (corn) crop ends up feeding livestock, which
    can be cheaply fattened on corn before slaughter.

    But beef from corn-fattened cattle, for example, tends to have more
    artery-clogging saturated fats than grass-fed beef, says Popkin.
    Research also suggests it’s lower in healthful substances like
    Omega-3 fatty acids.

    Ominously, researchers have even found that cattle that subsist
    mainly on corn develop high stomach acidity, which appears to breed
    E. coli O157:H7, a deadly strain of the bacteria.

    Six years ago, USDA microbiologist James Russell noted in the journal
    Science that switching cattle to a diet of hay for even a brief
    period before slaughter could eliminate most of the problematic E.
    coli.

    But some scientists and industry groups have questioned Russell’s findings.
    Now, a new study to be published in Applied and Environmental
    Microbiology by researchers at Kansas State University has found that
    cattle fed distillers grains, a byproduct of ethanol production, have
    a significantly higher prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 in part of their
    digestive system.

    If further studies confirm the finding, “this could have profound
    implications in food safety,” says T.G. Nagaraja, the study’s author.

    So, as you can see, there are many and complex issues at hand.

    December 20, 2007
  33. Angel Dobrow said:

    Here’s a radical idea–how about Rice County farmers feed Rice County? Let’s look into the economics of that!

    I attended the County Commissioner’s work session this Tuesday past and picked up a Faribault newspaper on my way back home. Below is a letter to the editor printed on Wednesday as a response to a Tuesday front page article on the feedlot debate.

    I, for one, would like to hear more public comment on this issue. There are those of us with a command of the facts (see above!!), those of us who resist factory farms for a myriad of reasons, and those of us who are just plain scared about unforeseen consequences. I watched a 24-minute film yesterday about factory farms in MI and wept. Compassion for the family farmers affected by these operations took me right to my essential question–what the heck are we doing here?

    Can we organize an open forum? Differing views aside, we can all BENEFIT from bringing our various areas of expertise and experience to the table.

    LTE:

    Rice County is home to many views, as the newly explosive feedlot discussion shows. The argument, however, that the discussion is between “those without a clue” and growth-oriented farmers is misleading. Simply the outrage expressed by area residents should offer all of us pause as to what is at stake. Our County Commissioners have been entrusted with making decisions that affect all county residents. All of us.

    In yesterday’s Faribault Daily News the use of a Wal-Mart anology is interesting. Studies have shown that the opening of a Wal-Mart SuperCenter often has a NEGATIVE impact on the community. Local businesses close, tax-supported public health care programs grow larger, the tax base shrinks due to incentives offered to this (already profitable) corporation which drives (taxable) wages down. Some competition. Area farmers might think they are competing with Waseca farmers, but we are all competing on a planet stretched to its resource limits.

    As to the other argument regarding “enough”, I suggest that we may be beyond that point already. Unlimited growth belongs (if ever it belonged) to a time past that allowed expansion without regard to natural consequences. Our tolerance for pollution and other potentially harmful environmental activity has of necessity been constricted because we are learning from our past mistakes; emphasis on learning. We cannot go back to redo soil erosion, pesticide poisoning, species elimination; we can, however, move forward with the intention of acknowledging acceptable limits. Animal limits, soil limits, growth limits.

    We are fortunate to be in an region that even allows a discussion of the various food production methods. Our county is host to many types of farmers, many of whom labor hard to incorporate the ideas and technologies that promote a sustainable way of life. Sustainability is defined as that which allows for continuation. We all want our children and future generations to survive in a healthy world. So let’s keep the discussion on how to achieve this together.

    Angel Dobrow
    Northfield, Minnesota

    December 21, 2007
  34. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Bruce and all,

    I appreciate all the input, but I have to keep focused on the task at hand. Bridgewater and other townships submitted their objections to the changes at the hearings of Nov. 15 and Nov. 29. These are zero setback to neighboring home, large increase in feedlot size limit, allowing up to the maximum on a piece of land as small as 5 acres. (See AU Chart posted by Griff, comment #20 of Dec. 6.)

    After a major goofup on Dec. 12 where county commissioners passed a resolution moving a section of the feedlot ordinance into the county zoning ordinance, not realizing the size increase was imbedded in it, they took it up again in a Work Session of Dec. 18.

    Administrator Gary Weiers and Asst County Attorney Meredith Erickson led the five commissoners (Sammon and Halverson not included) through the procedure for rescinding the resolution and walked them through issues yet unresolved–setback, minimum acres and size.

    It was touch-and-go on the setback for awhile, w/Plaisance and Gillen resisting the Planning Commission recommendation to restore it. Gillen was still troubled about the 5 acres. That did not change, but the group agreed to move the CUP threshold back to 300 au.

    Malecha, Bauer and Brown stated their wish to keep the 1500 au (under state equivalents). Then Brown started to get creative with dairy numbers, and things broke down.

    I made more AU Charts available, in hopes that that Weiers or Erickson would lead them through it this time, but no. Maybe next time, which could be Jan. 22 (everyone watch the County Commissioners agendas so we don’t miss it). Final vote on the changes is expected early February.

    Sammon and Halverson were lobbying Bauer and Brown heavily after adjournment. I hate to think of how much more pressure will be applied to them over the coming weeks.

    December 21, 2007
  35. Griff Wigley said:

    Stephanie wrote elsewhere (I copied it here for her):

    Concerning the feedlot ordinance changes, county news is covered by Faribault Daily which has had great difficulty covering the feedlot ordinance topic, largely due to heavy turnover in reporters. The paper today denied our request to print the complete animal unit information (with columns of compromise choices) before the Jan. 22 meeting of the Board. So citizens are left to attempt to raise money for a half page ad to run next week instead. Contributions welcome. My husband is still in the hospital, but leave messages to 645-7086.

    January 12, 2008
  36. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Need calls to Commissioner Jim Brown before Feb. 12, new date for discussion of feedlot size limit. We postponed our ad until next weekend, Feb. 2-3.

    Commissioner Jake Gillen is on vacation in the Caribbean until Feb. 9, so he won’t be available for calls. He and Milt Plaisance want the big size increase.

    Commissioners Malecha, Bauer and Brown were leaning toward 1500 au under the new equivalents (5000 market hogs, up from 3,750) at their December meeting, so I encourage calls to them, especially Brown. Brown said recently that his “township people” don’t care either way (1500 au or 2000 au), so it sounds like he may be moving toward Plaisance and Gillen. The feedlot ordinance is a “stand alone” ordinance requiring a simple majority (3-2). We need to keep these three votes:

    Commissioner Steve Bauer, Chair 507-334-9700
    Commissioner Jim Brown 507-744-4500
    Commissioner Galen Malecha 645-6041

    January 27, 2008
  37. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Calls to Brown, Bauer and Malecha would be for the purpose of encouraging them to stay with 1500 au size cap (5000 market hogs vs. 6,667). My message above was not clear on this.

    The answer to those who say size is not important, that it’s a matter of good managment: There is little to no enforcement at state or local level. Large amounts of manure, especially liquid manure, increase the risk of environmental damage when something goes wrong.

    January 27, 2008
  38. BruceWMorlan said:

    Chris and Stephanie, I pointed out that to me the discussion on feedlots has to be refocused to the real problem they seem to present for the rest of us, which is treatment of the manure. I believe that requiring that feedlots identify and follow a responsible and environmentally sound waste dispersal process will indirectly solve the issue of size (1500 vs. 3000 vs. ?). Unfortunately, I am very capable of asking the questions, and of using well thought out answers, but I do not have good access to the information that provides the answers and therefore hope to hear from knowledgeable citizens with references in hand. My point was, if we allow the discussion to center on the wrong issue, we run the risk of losing the argument because we cannot argue for something is does not matter anyway. I’m just thinking outside the box.

    Stephanie, I have seen you working so hard on these issues over the years, we need to figure out how to energize some of your friends to help out here so you don’t have to try to do everything!

    January 28, 2008
  39. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Bruce,

    I don’t generally spend a lot of time in dialog with someone who throws up to me the old notion that feedlot size is not an important consideration, that it’s just a matter of good management. You must be talking to the wrong people. Just interview neighbors forced to live in close proximity to a megafeedlot and you will find this argument has no substance in real life.

    If you truly believe that, you will find a kindred spirit in Ag Commissioner Gene Hugoson who has been trying to limit the right of counties and townships to set size limits and setbacks in their feedlot ordinances through three administrations (Carlson, Ventura and Pawlenty). You will also want to meet turkey grower Kim Halverson of Faribault whose efforts to gut our ordinance he is rewarding by naming her farmer good neighbor of the year, among other things.

    I am not alone in working on this issue. I work with Minnesota Environmental Partnership which includes local control of feedlots in its priorities for lobbying at the Legislature. And various farm groups. I did not get engaged in the county feedlot ordinance revision early on because there were no drastic changes proposed until Oct/Nov and I was preoccuppied with the corn ethanol topic. Yes, it is up to others to work on this now, before it’s too late.

    For the next KYMN radio show, I suggest having speakers on the feedlot ordinance issue. The Poodle Shoot, frankly, just doesn’t grab me.

    February 1, 2008
  40. Bruce Morlan said:

    Stephanie, I think what I was trying to say is that feedlot size is not just about numbers of animals but also about good sustainable ability to handle the waste. The general discussion about size should include the number of animals confined (considering impact on neighbors quality of life due to noise and odors), number of acres devoted to sewage management (considering impact on surface and subsurface waters, odor (for the neighbors to that land) and ability of crops or fields to USE the nutrients so dispersed). In general I think that this approach will lead to defensible limits on number of animals, defensible requirements for sewage management plans, dialog between farmers and their neighbors about those limits that focus on real issues rather than just NIMBY. Sorry if I seemed too focused on manure management plans.

    February 1, 2008
  41. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Manure management is addressed in the state rules we call “7020.” Have you read them? No reason to reinvent the wheel. Manure management plans are required and manure is to be spread at agronomic rates on enough acres to avoid overspreading. This all sounds great, but does not necessarily work out in practice. And there is little to no enforcement.

    At county or township level, we cannot set pollution standards different from the state, but we can make planning and zoning decisions–mainly by setting size limits and setbacks. County Commissioners in the 90s “got it” and did the work. Since that time, the ordinance was weakened once and looks like it will be gutted before it’s over this month.

    February 1, 2008
  42. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Nfld News: County releases new draft of its feedlot ordinance

    But there had been one remaining area left undecided – whether to raise the animal unit cap from 1,500 to 2,000. Commissioner Jim Brown voiced his change of opinion in favor of raising the cap, noting that while adopting state definitions would provide most farmers an increase, dairy farmers would still be limited under the current 1,500 cap.

    February 13, 2008
  43. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    This is discouraging news. At the December meeting, Commissioner Brown had asked Atty Meredith Erickson to find out if we could increase the numbers for Holstein dairy cows while holding the rest to 1500 au cap. She did not come back w/information yesterday other than to say he would have to find a “rationale” to justify it. Administrator Weiers advised them not to diverge from the state numbers. Someone said the state numbers are obviously “science-based” (wrong) and well thought out. End of discussion.

    There are only 10 large feedlots in the county over 1000 au and most of them have room to grow under the current cap. Liebenstein is the largest in Brown’s district (735 au). One wonders why he is making such an issue of it for dairy.

    Rationale for increasing dairy numbers might be to factor in the potency of manure from each species which U of M could do on request. Stick your left foot in a bucket of cow manure and your right foot in a bucket of hog manure. See which one is “hotter” (burns the skin first).

    Other reasons might be that more farmers would find jobs raising hay for large dairies and more hayland is better for the soil.

    February 13, 2008
  44. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Last chance to calll Commissioner Jim Brown (he was the swing vote on Feb. 12) before the Board approves the final draft of the Rice County Feedlot Ordinance Tuesday morning, Feb. 26. Many thanks to Malecha and Bauer for standing firm at 1500 au, but we need that third vote.

    It’s on the agenda for 9:l5 am. The way it is written, it will take effect on that day and the whole county will be subject to it.

    There is still misinformation floating around that the increase in livestock numbers on even smaller acreages (see newspaper ad I posted above) won’t really make a difference. I advise against a “wait and see” approach.

    Neighbors to the large Holden hog operation at the Forest/Bridgewater township line (Acorn Trail and Cty 9 or 150th St.) are wondering what the changes will mean to them. Someone has spread the rumor that there are no large feedlots with manure management problems at the north end of Rice County. That is false.

    February 21, 2008
  45. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Update:

    The feedlot ordinance draft passed 3-1 (Malecha opposed and Bauer absent) at the Feb. 26 County Board meeting. Commissioners Brown, Gillen and Plaisance went with the 2000 au cap by state definitions (which are in conflict with federal ones). Time to start thinking about replacing all three in November 2008. Surely there are candidates out there who would attempt to represent the majority of their constituents on important issues.

    March 7, 2008
  46. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    One of the ag resolutions on the ballot at yesterday’s Rice County DFL Convention was “maintain the right of counties and townships to do their own planning and zoning of development projects, including feedlots.” We lost our quorem shortly after the end of subcaucusing so the convention was adjourned without any resolutions debates.

    Resolutions Chair Harriet Wishnick held about a half hour of debates for the benefit of those remaining, however. Steve Albers and I spoke in support of the local control one.

    A resolution opposing the “shoot first” bill was also on the list. Mary Lewis Grow and an attorney in the Steele County Attorney’s Office took opposite sides at the mic on that one.

    March 16, 2008
  47. Ray Cox said:

    It is nice to see both political parties agreeing on the local control issue. There were discussions at the Rice-Scott Republican meeting a week ago about maintianing local control for zoning and regulatory issues like this. No resolutions were adopted as the wording gets too ‘clunky’ to work on in a consensus setting.

    March 18, 2008
  48. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Was the Rice/Scott Republican meeting you refer to an actual county convention? Are resolutions submitted at primary/caucus level and presented on a ballot at county convention? Sounds like there was discussion, but no action.

    Can someone post a link to the current Republican State Platform? I used to carry a copy for comparison.

    March 18, 2008
  49. Ray Cox said:

    The Rice-Scott BPOU (Basic Political Organizing Unit) convention was held weekend before last in Faribault. We had a good turn out of roughly 150 people in attendance. It was covered in the Faribault paper I believe.

    The resolutions are submitted at the precinct caucuses then ‘boiled down’ by a resolutions committee and brought forward to the BPOU convention. If resolutions are approved at the BPOU they can move forward to the Congressional convention and to the State convention.

    I don’t have a good link to the Republican platform, but there are a couple of areas that address local control concerns. In Section 7 it clarifies that Republicans oppose annexation without the approval of township residents. In Section 8 it states that Republicans support returning government functions from the federal level to the state and local level whenever possible, and that government functions are more effectively carried out at the state and local level.

    I believe the majority of Republicans do support the concept of keeping government at the lowest level possible. In the case of zoning and planning issues I know the discussion favored keeping it at that level. However, I do not believe a resolution made it out of the convention on this topic. Few resolutions advanced.

    March 18, 2008
  50. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Central Livestock in South St. Paul is having their final auction tomorrow, Friday April 11. Anyone want to drive up? Dennis Sjodin of Farmers Union will be selling some cattle. The end of an era. Call me 645-7086

    April 10, 2008
  51. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    London Telegraph:
    Cow farts collected in plastic tank for global warming study

    By Rupert Neate
    Last Updated: 9:55PM BST 09/07/2008
    Scientists are examining cow farts and burps in a novel bid to combat global warming.

    Experts said the slow digestive system of cows makes them a key producer of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that gets far less public attention than carbon dioxide.

    In a bid to understand the impact of the wind produced by cows on global warming, scientists collected gas from their stomachs in plastic tanks attached to their backs.

    July 22, 2008
  52. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    This topic is not appearing on active discussions on the sidebar. Griff, how many exchanges of comments has to occur before it does?

    July 27, 2008
  53. Griff Wigley said:

    One comment brings any blog post to the top of the discussion heap, Stephanie.

    July 29, 2008