UPDATE: Farmers and rural Minnesotans are standing up and taking action to stop the spread of factory farms in Minnesota. We are in the remaining weeks of the Legislature and things are moving fast. But thanks to action taken by LSP members and supporters, the corporate-backed factory farm provision detailed in this letter didn't make it to the Governor's desk and he also vetoed House File 330 , which would have weakened local control.
But the session is not over yet, and we know things can change at the last minute, so we need to keep the pressure on and stay vigilant to keep rural Minnesota strong. Your support and membership help make that possible. Please read this important message below and become a member of the Land Stewardship Project today!
Fred Fredrickson was angry when he told me about the map and showed me a picture of his family farm. The problem was that his farm was nowhere to be found on the map used in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s environmental review of a proposed 4,700-hog factory farm. If built, the factory farm would be less than a mile from his home, where he has milked cows his entire life.
And that was just the beginning. Three other neighbors’ homes were missing from the review map as well. So were 13 nearby drinking wells. The location of drinking wells is certainly important when you’re making decisions about where to store 3 million gallons of liquid hog manure.
What’s worse, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) protected the investors in this factory hog farm by keeping information from citizens and ignoring its own rules in a rush to rubber stamp this operation.
The message was clear to the people of Zumbrota Township: corporate-backed factory farms are more important than your families and your farms.
The factory farm proposers don’t seem to share the concerns of Fred and his neighbors; maybe that’s because they don’t live in the township. They already operate six other factory farms in Minnesota and one proposer is vice president of an insurance company in a Twin Cities suburb. This is not about making enough to live a good life. This is about making more profit at the expense of the people and the land.
But Fred and his neighbors are fighting back. They love their community — the clean air, the clean water and the families and farms that make it strong. They are Land Stewardship Project members because they value stewardship, justice and healthy communities, and are willing to work together to stand up to outside interests that want to profit at their expense.
And this is about more than stopping another factory farm blighting the land. It’s about corporate power and democracy, and who decides what’s best for people and the land. It’s about building a better way forward for family farms and rural communities and the protection of our water and the land. It’s a fight that all of us have a stake in.
Fighting to Stop Factory Farms & Keep Rural Minnesota Strong
LSP has always worked to protect rural communities from corporate-backed efforts that extract wealth and threaten the land. LSP has successfully stopped 35 factory farms since 1994, and recently LSP members waged a winning campaign to pass a ban on frac sand mining operations in Winona County.
But corporate interests aren’t backing down any time soon.
In a commentary that ran widely in rural newspapers recently, southwestern Minnesota hog farmer and LSP organizer Paul Sobocinski said it like this:
“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 the reality in rural Minnesota.”
At our Capitol, where the people’s business is supposed to set the agenda, multiple bills are moving forward to weaken local control, to take away the right to use the courts to hold factory farms accountable, and to double the size a factory farm can be before mandatory environmental review happens.
What all these bills have in common is that they put corporate interests before the best interests of Minnesota families and the land. That’s wrong and Land Stewardship Project members are fighting hard to stop it.
One of the worst threats is a bill proposed to double the size a factory farm can be from 1,000 animal units to 2,000 animal units before environmental review is required.
What would this law have meant for Fred Fredrickson and his neighbors in Zumbrota Township? If this law had been in place, construction of that factory hog farm would have begun almost a year ago and they would now be living next to a 3.7-million-gallon liquid manure lagoon.
Currently, factory farm proposals over 1,000 animal units require environmental review. (One thousand animal units translates to 3,333 hogs or 714 dairy cows or 1,000 steers.) Operations of this size are the largest 7 percent of feedlots in our state. This current threshold is so large that only nine factory farms were required to do an environmental review in 2016.
Now, many factory hog farms are built at 990 animal units to avoid environmental review. If this bill passes, they would be built at 1,990 animal units (that translates to 6,633 hogs). Also, existing factory farms at 990 animal units now could expand to 1,990 without any environmental review. To put it simply, this means more and larger factory farms in Minnesota.
When a factory farm comes to town, its owners like to talk about jobs, odor-free operations and clean water. The truth is, all too often, factory farms bring hazardous hydrogen sulfide emissions and manure spills, as well as put family farmers out of business, with most of the profit leaving the community. These operations are a real threat to rural communities, our land, air and water.
Environmental review that is transparent to the public matters. It matters for rural Minnesota and that is why we are fighting to keep it strong.
And of course, corporate ag lobbyists don’t play fair — they worked to add this bill to the large Senate Environment Funding Bill (Senate File 723). This is the bill that funds state agencies like the Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and more. Corporate ag tried to hide this bill from public scrutiny because it knows that the people of Minnesota do not want factory farms.
On Wednesday, April 19, LSP members got on buses in Houston, Granite Falls and Duluth to travel to the Capitol to join hundreds of other Minnesotans for Water Action Day. At the rally, LSP member and young beginning farmer Julie Arnold spoke to the importance of environmental review:
“Environmental review is about making sure neighbors know what is being proposed and have a say when it comes to our water, air and community. It’s about getting it right and keeping rural Minnesota strong. We need to fight to make sure this does not get to Governor Dayton’s desk. If it does, we will look to him to stand up for clean water and rural Minnesota and veto it.”
Since that day hundreds of LSP members and supporters have taken action and contacted their state legislators to oppose this legislation. As a result, the language has been taken out of the bill.
LSP members, like Julie and Fred, are working to stand up for their community and the land, but they need your help. I am asking you to join us and stand with Minnesotans who are organizing to stop the corporate takeover of agriculture by joining the Land Stewardship Project today with a gift of $35, $60, or $100.
Please, do this now. When we stand up and stand together, we win.
A Better Way Forward
Stopping this assault on democracy and the land is a top priority for the Land Stewardship Project. But stopping factory farms isn’t enough. We also need to move forward with better ways to farm and raise food while building prosperous economies that work for people and strengthen our democracy.
That’s why LSP has launched a new initiative to build a farmer-to-farmer network based on enhancing soil health and increasing family farm profitability.
That’s why LSP is a national leader in helping new farmers get started successfully and sustainably. Right now, we are working to advance a bill at the Minnesota Legislature that will help beginning farmers overcome one of the biggest barriers they face when trying to launch an agricultural business: access to land.
LSP believes we must fight the worst extractions of wealth and destruction of the land while promoting the best ideas for farming, healthy communities and the future of our democracy.
The Land Stewardship Project is committed to creating positive change in our farm and food system, but we cannot win without you. That’s why I am asking you to join with me and thousands of other LSP members by saying NO to corporate-backed factory farms.
As a member, you’ll be provided with opportunities to take action on the issues you care about. You’ll receive invitations to meetings, on-farm field days and other events. And you will get updates and information on the latest developments related to farm and food issues not available anywhere else, including a one-year subscription to the Land Stewardship Letter.
But, most importantly, you’ll be taking the next step towards building the power of people to shape our communities, our land and our country for the better.