Guest post by Paul Sobocinski
When you look at the bills being pushed at our state Capitol this year, it appears many legislators think that what people living in rural and small town Minnesota want are more factory farms and less of a say in what happens in our community. Nothing is further from reality.
But reality at the Capitol, where corporate lobbyists line the halls, is different from our reality in rural Minnesota. Bills are being pushed in St. Paul to weaken local control and township rights and to take away the right to use the courts to hold factory farms accountable.
One of the worst pair of companion bills would double the size of large livestock operations before environmental review is required: Senate File 1016 by Sen. Weber and House File 1456 by Rep. Swedzinski.
Currently factory farms over 1,000 animal units must undergo environmental review. This bill would double that to 2,000. Feedlots over 1,000 animal units are the largest 7 percent of livestock operations in our state. The current threshold of 1,000 animal units is so large that only nine livestock operations were required to do an environmental review in 2016 (1,000 animal units is 3,333 hogs, 714 dairy cows, and 1,000 steer, 20,000 chickens).
The overwhelming majority of family livestock operations in Minnesota are well below this threshold. Environmental review is important because it gives neighbors a chance to understand what is being proposed and the chance to review and weigh in on the proposal. Without environmental review, the first neighbors might learn about a project is when they see the bulldozers arrive and construction begin on a multi-million-gallon hog manure lagoon.
It is simple. Rural people do not want laws passed to help corporate interests sneak factory farms into our community. We want environmental review on large factory farms.
Let your state representative and senator know that you oppose this legislation to keep rural Minnesota strong.
Paul Sobocinski is a Wabasso-area hog farmer in Redwood County,and Land Stewardship Project organizer.
Editor's note: This article has appeared in the Kenyon Leader. Kenyon is a city in Goodhue County where citizens are grappling with expanding hog operations. The Red Wing Republican Eagle reported on February 23, 2017, in Circle K Family Farms decision to be tested in Minnesota Court of Appeals:
Tuesday's County Board meeting was met with anticipation by Zumbrota citizens. A controversial conditional-use permit passed by a unanimous 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Jason Majerus withholding his vote and backing out of discussion, due to ties with Circle K family farm.
With a crowd of about 20 concerned neighbors to Circle K, Zumbrota citizens hoped commissioners would hear their concerns and hold off on approval for the hog feedlot. The motion passed after a half-hour discussion and the addition of one more condition by Commissioner Brad Anderson . . .
Once the permit was approved, neighbors stood up and one member walked to the County Board desk with a list of zoning ordinances they think Goodhue County did not comply with. After doing so, they stated that a lawsuit would be filed based on the approval of Circle K farms, and the next step will be to go to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
"The rules in our ordinance are clear. We're sending this to the Court of Appeals so that they can make a fair, fact-based decision," said Zumbrota Township farmer Dale Post, who lives just under a mile of the proposed feedlot.
As a plaintiff in the case, Kristi Rosenquist, who owns adjoining property, said Zumbrota Township residents have a very good case. "There's more than enough evidence that the county did not follow its own ordinance or apply it properly," she stated. . . .
Conservative readers may recognize Rosenquist as a frequent guest on the Sue Jeffers radio talk show who was hailed as an "Unsung Hero" in the Washington Times in 2016 for her battles again siting wind farms. Given the tendency of Republican lawmakers and DFL representative Paul Marquart to babble about how environmental regulations are universally disliked by rural residents, we're curious how they'll deal with this one.
Perhaps the resistance of Goodhue County residents will be ignored by the lawmakers, just as we hear nothing during video and audio from legislative committees of how In town hall & letters sections, constituents sass back to state rep Steve Green about lots of stuff or how Constituents at Westrom/Anderson Glenwood town hall meeting demand environmental protections or Town hall buffer message to Backer not quite what he proposes in St. Paul.
Or how grassroots efforts caused Winona Co to pass a ban on new frac sand mining, processing, storage or transport operations.
Or how the Rochester Post Bulletin named the local kid who led that fight its newsmaker of the year, as we noted inThink greater MN fears environmentalists? Meet Johanna Rupprecht, PB newsmaker of year.
Or will columnists keep churning out those talking points that help engineer consent? Alas, that's likely to remain a rhetorical question.
Photo: Paul Sobocinski, hog farmer and organizer.
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