Commissioner Stine: Protect Family Farms & Get Environmental Review Right on Factory Hog Farm

My family and I operate a dairy farm in Goodhue County's Zumbrota Township in southeastern Minnesota. My father bought our farm in 1942, and I have lived on this land my whole life. My wife, my sister, my brother and I milk cows and raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa. We’re proud of the life we’ve built off the land, and we rely on the clean air and water in Zumbrota Township.

Last winter, I learned of plans to build a 4,700-hog factory farm with a 3.7-million-gallon liquid manure pit next door to our family farm. The proposers, the Kohlnhofers, operate at least six other large facilities, as well as an insurance agency in Lakeville, Minn. Despite having all this, they want to devalue my property value and put my air and water at risk to get more. That’s wrong.

The factory farm would border my property on the north, bringing the stench of nearly 4,700 hogs to our doorstep. My family and I enjoy spending most of our days outside. I’m well-acquainted with the smell of manure, but the stench from an operation this large is different. Living next to millions of gallons of raw hog manure would ruin our lives. What’s more, the massive manure pit sits on land that is rated as highly susceptible to groundwater pollution because of our karst geology. The proposal threatens our air, our water and our family business.

That’s why I was shocked when I learned that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) environmental review for this project missed my home in its maps and analysis. I’ve lived on this land my whole life, yet the MPCA failed to take my home into account in the assessment of this proposal.

But that’s not all. As I read more of the environmental review I saw that it was inaccurate and careless. In a situation where the MPCA should have been triple-checking information, basic details were clearly never fact-checked. Other critical information missing or wrong in the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) includes:

  • Four homes missing within one mile of the proposal. This basic information can be found through a simple Google search.
  • Thirteen wells missing within one mile. We rely on our wells for our drinking water. Our family farm cannot survive without access to clean water.
  • Visible and well-known sinkholes missing from the karst evaluation. Sinkholes are common in our area and can form at any time. In fact, in 1992 the wastewater treatment lagoon in nearby Bellechester, Minn., collapsed due to a newly formed sinkhole, and nearby wells were polluted. Imagine if, instead of treated wastewater, the lagoon was full of raw, liquid hog manure. The results would be disastrous.
  • An inaccurate air quality report. This report got the numbers for hydrogen sulfide emissions wrong. Hydrogen sulfide is a poisonous gas with proven negative health impacts.

Click here to read more about the many inaccuracies and omissions in the EAW.

How can the MPCA expect the public to have confidence in a document that is so riddled with mistakes? The things we care about most—our homes, our wells, our water and our air—were neglected in this environmental review.

The MPCA has a responsibility to protect the environment and serve the people of Minnesota. So far, it seems to only be interested in issuing the factory farm permit as quickly as possible.

Moving forward with this careless EAW is simply unacceptable. The MPCA needs to re-do the EAW, and this time it needs to do it right. MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine has the responsibility to order a new, accurate and thorough EAW that takes our homes, our wells and all karst features into account. In Zumbrota Township, and on our family farm, our livelihood depends on it.

Frederick Fredrickson is one of a group of rural residents in Zumbrota Township who are expressing concerns about the proposed Kohlnhofers factory farm. For more on this issue, see the Land Stewardship Project's recent press release.