Imagine opening your local newspaper on a Monday morning and discovering that a 5,000-head factory hog farm or an 6,000-head mega-dairy is being proposed in your township — and the public comment period ends that very weekend!
We deserve the right to have a voice when major decisions that could impact the health of our communities are being made. It is the role of our public institutions, like the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), to act in the best interests of the public and make sure our voices are heard — our public comment period rights are instrumental to this.
Unfortunately, many folks reading this e-mail have had the experience of learning at the last-minute that a factory farm or other major development is proposed for their community. Rural residents and family farmers have to hunt in their local newspapers to find out about proposals in their communities, and by the time they do, it may be too late. Over the past year, Land Stewardship Project members have fought for and won public comment period extensions for proposed factory farms to give communities a fair chance to engage and respond.
Corporate ag interests sued the MPCA over a two-week comment period extension in October and lost — now they're trying to change the law at the expense of rural communities and family farmers.
We know why they are doing this. Corporate interests do not want you and other rural community members to be heard. We need to take action now to protect our rights.
The Minnesota Senate's Environment and Natural Resources Finance Omnibus Bill (SF 2314; Ingebrigtsen, Ruud, Tomassoni) contains a provision that would limit the public comment period on any environmental assessment worksheets (EAWs) to 30 days, unless approved by the project's proposer. This applies to proposed factory farms and all other projects required to complete an EAW.
This corporate proposal would strip the ability for the state to extend a comment period when it's in the best interest of the public, and give that authority to the proposer of a large-scale proposal. The fact is, the public comment period is rarely extended — and when it is, it is to ensure the public has an appropriate amount of time to understand and comment on the proposal.
This bill is heading to the floor of the Senate. We need our Senators to put the interests of Minnesotans before those of corporate proposals that have the potential to severely impact the health, quality-of-life, and viability of rural communities and family farmers.