Last night, after six hours of presentations by members of the public, the Winona County Board of Adjustment denied a request to exceed the county's animal unit cap by nearly four-fold. The Board of Adjustment found that the record clearly showed the variance request did not meet the legal requirement for a variance. (Full information on the variance issue is here.) This was a good decision that puts the wellbeing of the community before the financial interests of one business.
This decision means that Daley Farms' proposed massive expansion cannot move forward. Daley Farms was proposing to add 3,000 cows, which would put the operation at 5,968 animal units, almost four times the Winona County animal unit cap. Each year, it could use 92 million gallons of the area's groundwater and produce 46 million gallons of manure and wastewater.
At last night's hearing, 40 people testified, with 23 of them raising concerns and opposing the variance. Concerns were brought up about water quality and quantity, about the long record of violations at Daley Farms, about the impact on small- and moderate-sized farms, and more. It was clear there was strong and deep concern within the community about the negative impacts of this proposal.
Winona County set a limit on how large feedlots can be so that no one operation would profit at the expense of the community's air, water and wellbeing. The Winona County animal unit cap is generous at 1,500 animal units. (This is 1,071 dairy cows, 5,000 hogs and 1,500 beef cows.) The overwhelming majority of feedlots in Winona County and the state are well below this. The cap readily allows for a family farm-based system of livestock agriculture in Winona County and it is important that the county maintain and enforce this cap.
Thanks to everyone who took action and stood up on this important issue.