LEWISTON, Minn. — On Jan. 4, five “agricultural groups” filed an amici curiae (friend of the court) motion with the Minnesota Court of Appeals in support of Daley Farm’s request that a recent District Court ruling be overturned, thus allowing the Lewiston dairy operation to circumvent Winona County’s zoning rules related to livestock operation size. If the District Court’s decision is successfully appealed, Daley Farm would be allowed to expand to 6,000 animal units (roughly 4,500 cows); the current county livestock operation size limit is 1,500 animal units.
In the amicus filing, the groups — Minnesota Milk Producers Association, Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation, Minnesota Pork Producers Association, Minnesota State Cattleman’s Association and Winona County Farm Bureau — attempt to divide Winona County and undercut local democracy by advancing false ideas about the Land Stewardship Project (LSP), our members and our work. This latest legal maneuver is a desperate attempt to yet again bypass the will of the people and advance the interests of a select few at the expense of the community.
In their filing, the “agricultural groups” chose to parrot the baseless claim that LSP “tainted” the Winona County Board of Adjustment’s decision (in two separate votes) to deny Daley’s request for a variance from the zoning rules. The courts have repeatedly supported the rights of local citizens, including LSP members, to have their voices heard and to participate in local decision making when it comes to the Daley Farm issue. It’s clear the groups filing this amicus are confusing a “tainted process” with local citizen engagement and local democracy.
The groups are also asking that the Court of Appeals examine the role Minnesota’s anti-corporate farm law, which keeps farms in the hands of Minnesota families rather than multi-national corporations, plays in the Daley Farm issue. Over the past few decades, LSP has repeatedly fought to prevent the anti-corporate farm law from being weakened.
In fact, Minnesota’s anti-corporate farm law allows an operation like Daley to exist in its present form. Asking the courts to introduce the corporate farm law issue into the picture is a distraction from the fact that nitrate pollution is at crisis levels in the region and that local citizens have made their voices heard about what they want their community to look like in the future. It’s a deflection from the fact that consolidation and market manipulation in the dairy industry are putting family farms out of business at a record pace. It’s time we addressed the overall crisis that afflicts family dairy farming rather than make it easier for a select few to grow and consolidate, thus pushing their neighbors out of business. How will the expansion of Daley and others like it address the fact that while farmers were recently receiving record low prices for milk, consumers were paying more at the grocery store?
In their filing, the “agricultural groups” have characterized LSP as “anti-agriculture.” Our record shows otherwise. During the past quarter-century we have helped launch hundreds of farming operations through our Farm Beginnings program. Through our Soil Builders’ Network, we are supporting farmers of all types in Winona County and throughout the region who want to build soil profitably. Every year, our members and staff work at the Minnesota Capitol to pass legislation in support of small and medium-sized farmers.
LSP resolves to continue our work supporting rural democracies, advocating for farmers, and championing economically and environmentally sustainable agriculture in southeastern Minnesota and throughout the Upper Midwest, just as we have done for the past four decades.
The Land Stewardship Project (LSP) is a private, nonprofit, membership-based organization founded in 1982 to foster an ethic of stewardship for farmland, to promote sustainable agriculture and to develop healthy communities. LSP has offices in the Minnesota communities of Lewiston, Montevideo and South Minneapolis.