Goodhue County Citizens Take Fight Against Kohlnhofer Factory Farm to the Minnesota Supreme Court

Appeal of Lower Court Ruling Puts County Feedlot Permit on Hold

ZUMBROTA, Minn. — Residents of Zumbrota Township in southeastern Minnesota’s Goodhue County filed an appeal today with the Minnesota Supreme Court in an ongoing effort to protect their community from a proposed factory hog farm. The proposed facility would house 4,700 hogs, a 3.5-million-gallon manure lagoon and a 140-adult-hog composting pit. The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Dec. 18 ruled against the citizens, who had challenged Goodhue County’s issuance of a conditional use permit for the proposed factory farm. Pursuant to the Goodhue County ordinance, the conditional use permit is on hold during the appeal and construction cannot move forward on the proposed feedlot.

“We still believe that our county failed to follow its own ordinance and is doing nothing to protect the public health of those of us who live in the area,” said Zumbrota Township resident and Land Stewardship Project (LSP) member Kristi Rosenquist.

Rosenquist shares a property line with the proposed Circle K Farms factory hog operation. Circle K operates seven other factory farms in the area and is owned by brothers Jeff, Yon and Mike Kohlnhofer.

Air pollution from the proposed factory farm and the threat it poses to the community’s health has been a strong concern of neighbors. Dale Post, a farmer and LSP member who lives across the road from the proposed facility, said his granddaughter, who lives in Zumbrota Township, suffers from a rare genetic disorder called CDKL5.

“She relies on fresh, clean air, and proximity to a factory hog farm, with its high levels of hydrogen sulfide emissions, would greatly complicate her condition,” said Post. “Her genetic footprint in this township goes back 134 years. Why should she be the one who has to leave?”

Acknowledging this concern and in response to a citizen-led air quality study, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has ordered continuous air monitoring at existing Circle K/Kohlnhofer sites, beginning in the spring. In a letter to Post and his neighbors, MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine stated: “Governor Dayton has also asked me to respond to your Report.” He added: “We are concerned about the potential violations of the hydrogen sulfide (H2S) air quality standards and Department of Health Risk Values (HRVs) at two hog facilities in Goodhue County… operated by the Kohlnhofer family.”

Hydrogen sulfide, which is emitted from large manure pits, causes negative health impacts ranging from nausea and severe diarrhea to neurological symptoms. This is the first livestock facility that the MPCA has done continuous air quality monitoring on in nine years.

In addition, neighbors have called directly upon Jeff Kohlnhofer and his brothers to respect the community and drop the project. Jeff Kohlnhofer is the former vice president of Kohlnhofer Insurance Agency, Inc., where he currently works as a producer. Citizens have collected over 780 petition postcards from concerned rural residents and farmers across Minnesota. Addressed to Jeff Kohlnhofer at the insurance agency, the postcards call on him to withdraw the proposal.

“Jeff Kohlnhofer can’t continue to claim to ‘protect what’s valuable’ at Kohlnhofer Insurance Agency in Lakeville while putting our families and farms at risk in Goodhue County,” said Zumbrota Township resident and LSP member Kathy Bramble.

The Minnesota Supreme Court has received and accepted the brief and has the next 60 days to decide if it will hear the case.