Minnesota Livestock Case, Feedlot Raises Water Issues

Josephine Marcotty reported in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune that, “A bitter three-year community fight over a hog feedlot in Dodge County has landed before three state Court of Appeals judges who are now being asked to decide a question that environmentalists see as critical to the future of clean water in Minnesota.

What obligation do county governments in rural areas have to protect their citizens from the impact of a growing livestock industry?

Yesterday’s article noted that, “‘There is absolutely no effort on the county’s part to address serious public health concerns or the serious environmental concerns relating to these factory farms,’ said Sonja Trom Eayrs, who grew up in Dodge County and has been leading the fight against the feedlot.

“Paul Reuvers, attorney for Dodge County, said the county has gone above and beyond what it is required to do according to local and state rules.

“‘We are an agricultural county, and if you live in an agricultural district you might have to deal with the odor, noise and dust associated with agricultural uses,’ he said.”

Ms. Marcotty explained that, “The case involves 2,400 of the 8.3 million hogs that are now raised in Minnesota, the third leading state in the country for pork production. But the number of hog farms has been steadily growing in many counties across the state as demand for pork rises globally, particularly in China and Mexico. Since 2006, the number of hogs in Minnesota has increased by 1.4 million.”

The Star Tribune article stated that, “A Dodge County judge ruled that local officials violated their own rules when they approved the feedlot [in 2014] because the proposal failed to provide critical information to the public, including a plan for how and where the manure would be distributed…[B]ut then the County Board voted to change its rules, creating a simpler two-page application for a feedlot permit that required far less information.”

Yesterday’s article then noted that, “The judge ruled that in regulatory decisions, courts are obliged to give deference to the government bodies that make the rules.

Now the issue lies with the state Court of Appeals. And it’s attracted the support of many environmental and animal welfare groups…”

After additional analysis looking at more details of the case, the article concluding by stating that, “It’s possible that the appeals court could throw out the case on a legal technicality — Reuvers has argued that the original complaint was not properly served on county officials. A decision is expected within 90 days.”

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