Swine Feedlot Proposal Draws Opposition in Minnesota

Jennifer Bjorhus reported last week at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Online that, “A Fillmore County farmer who sought to build the county’s largest animal feedlot has withdrawn his permit application in the face of sustained local opposition, marking the end of the road for the proposed Catalpa Ag hog farm.

“State pollution officials said Monday that Al Hein informed them of his decision via e-mail, and that it terminates his application.

“Hein, the majority holder in Catalpa Ag, wanted to build a piglet operation with nearly 5,000 pigs on his farm near Mabel, Minn., in southeastern Minnesota. The operation would have been managed by Iowa-based Waukon Feed Ranch.”

The Star-Tribune article noted that, “The feedlot ignited unusual local alarm, drawing large crowds at two informational meetings held by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and a record number of comments during the agency’s public-comment period. Area residents and others expressed concern that the 7.3 million gallons of liquid manure the pigs would produce each year would threaten their groundwater. They pressed the MPCA to require a full environmental review of the proposal and said that southeastern Minnesota, with its porous karst geography, was the wrong place for the large operation.

“Manure is a source of nitrate, a form of chemical salt that can cause health problems in drinking water, and an estimated 15 percent of the private wells in Fillmore County exceed the safe drinking water standard for nitrate.

“In December, the MPCA took the rare step of denying Hein’s application for a general permit, citing concerns that the karst geology was too sensitive to contamination.”

Ms. Bjorhus pointed out that, “Hein applied again, this time for an individual permit, a customized document that would have likely included additional protections for water resources. Most of the state’s 1,300 state-permitted feedlots are covered under general permits, according to the MPCA.

“Hein did not respond Monday to a request for comment, and MPCA officials declined to discuss what prompted his decision.”

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