Earlier this summer, Bluestem Prairie wrote about a swine factory farm proposed for the heart of Fillmore County's karst country in Fillmore County citizens have their fill of proposed hog farm, demand EIS statement and Dayton to meet with Fillmore Co farmers & rural residents demanding EIS for proposed 4,980-head factory hog farm.
Now news comes from our friends at Land Stewardship Project that one of the partners of the factory farm is attempting to prevent the township from meeting to consider adopting a one-year moratorium on new large-scale feedlots and other developments.
Under Minnesota law, townships possess considerable power to write their own zoning laws and such interim ordinances give local government time to write law use ordinances for the benefit of citizens.
Here's an edited copy of the LSP release, changed to reflect the cancellation of a court hearing on Wednesday about the lawsuit. The lawsuit has still been filed:
RELEASE: Proposer of Massive Factory Hog Farm Files 11th-hour Lawsuit Seeking to Prevent Aug. 2 Newburg Township Public Meeting
NEWBURG TOWNSHIP, Minn. -- In a highly unusual move, one of the partners of a proposed massive hog operation has filed a lawsuit in southeastern Minnesota’s Fillmore County, asking the District Court to prevent Newburg Township from meeting on Thursday, Aug. 2. Attorney Jack Perry of the Minneapolis-based firm Briggs and Morgan filed the lawsuit on behalf of Alvin and Merilee Hein July 25 in an attempt to prevent the township from meeting to consider adopting a one-year moratorium on new large-scale feedlots and other developments. To view a copy of the lawsuit filing, see https://
landstewardshipproject.org/ repository/1/2643/newburg_ township_lawsuit_july_2018.pdf
We embed the document here:
“Trying to stop a meeting of publicly-elected officials is outrageous. Through law, our township has the right to meet to decide the future of our community and we should be able to exercise that right,” said Newburg Township resident, farmer and business owner Mark Spande. “It shows they just don’t care about democracy or our community.”
Catalpa, LLC is proposing a 4,980-head factory hog farm in Fillmore County’s Newburg Township. At a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) public meeting on June 19, a representative of Catalpa, LLC indicated that the operation would be managed by Waukon Feed Ranch of Iowa, which manages 24,000 sows in three states, and that the hogs would be owned by Holden Farms of Northfield, Minn., which, according to Successful Farming magazine, was the country’s 17th largest pork producer in 2017 with 60,000 sows. The Heins, which are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, own the land where it is proposed the operation be built.
The controversial proposed swine farrowing facility would generate 7.3 million gallons of liquid manure annually and use 8.8 million gallons of the area’s groundwater per year (220 million gallons of groundwater over 25 years). In addition, it is proposed to be built in Minnesota’s vulnerable karst region, which is composed of porous limestone that creates sinkholes and disappearing springs. This geology can allow surface pollution to enter the groundwater in a matter of hours. As a result, this part of the state has long had problems with groundwater pollution.
The Newburg Township public hearing will take place on Thursday, Aug. 2, and at that time township officers will consider adopting a moratorium on any new massive feedlots proposed within the township. The moratorium would allow the township to maintain the status quo while it determines if it wants to adopt township level zoning protections. Currently, the township has no zoning ordinance. The purpose of a moratorium is to preserve the status quo while zoning changes are being considered. It was the massive size and potential effects of the proposed swine operation on health, air quality, groundwater, wells, local businesses and trout streams which caused many township residents to call for the consideration of adopting township protections and establishing local controls.
“Our township officers are taking appropriate steps to protect our community by using democratic local control,” said Newburg Township resident and business owner Barton Seebach. “They are prioritizing our community’s future over the pocketbooks of outside corporate interests. It’s those corporations that are going to own and operate this huge facility and others like it, for example, and, we expect, the many new finishing barns that receive the 150,000 or so piglets this facility may produce every year.”
Some backstory on the partner:Al Hein is "a past board member of southeast Minnesota Ethanol Cooperative, treasurer at POET Ethanol in Fillmore County, past director of Fillmore County Farm Bureau, [and] delegate to state Republican convention" according to a campaign website related to his 2010 Minnesota House bid as an independent. According to the Winona Daily News, his name appeared on the ballot in error as he did not file a petition nor collect signatures for one as required to get on the ballot as a small-i independent.
Update 5:54 p.m. August 2: Mr. Hein emailed us this morning to say in part that he "attended the DFL state convention this year in Rochester" and that he ran with Paul Wellstone. While he may have attended the convention, records at the state DFL do not list him as a delegate. Readers familiar with the Fillmore County DFL say that he is the township DFL precinct chair and was a delegate to the county and local endorsing conventions. He ran as a DFL candidate in 2002, losing to Greg Davids. We regret the omissions. We are still conducting due diligence on his other concerns [end update].
August 3: Hein objected to the use of the word "partner" to describe his involvement with the factory farm. We've changed the word to "shareholder" to more accurately describe the project's business structure. The shareholder structure for the proposed operation is described in news accounts here, here and here. We'll have more on the business entity as we complete our due diligence.
We'll keep an eye on this development. We agree that this is outrageous, as township government is the poster child for self-rule in Minnesota. Government doesn't get any smaller--or closer to the people.
Photo: A large hog farm under construction elsewhere by another Catalpa partner.
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