Citizens Call on Court to Hold County Board Accountable for Rubber-stamping Factory Farm Permit
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Thursday, Sept. 21, in a case that could determine the human health and environmental safety of a southeastern Minnesota township. In February, farmers and other rural residents from Goodhue County filed an appeal after the county board there rubber-stamped a Conditional Use Permit for a proposed 4,700-hog factory farm in Zumbrota Township.
Before the board’s decision, neighbors to the proposed facility documented how plans for its construction did not meet standards detailed in the Goodhue County Ordinance. Citizens called on the commissioners to follow the ordinance and deny the permit. When the Goodhue County Board instead rubber-stamped the permit, citizens filed a legal challenge with the Minnesota Court of Appeals. This legal challenge put the factory farm permit on hold until the court issues a ruling. The court has 90 days after oral arguments are heard to issue a ruling.
“It’s unacceptable for the Goodhue County Board to push through a factory farm permit that violates our ordinance,” said Zumbrota Township farmer Dale Post. “The rules in our ordinance are clear. We’re sending this to the Court of Appeals so that they can make a fair, fact-based decision.”
The Kohlnhofers, who already own seven other factory farms in Minnesota and operate Kohlnhofer Insurance Agency in Lakeville, Minn., are proposing a new 4,700-hog factory farm with a 3.5-million-gallon liquid manure pit in Zumbrota Township. The proposal does not comply with the Goodhue County Zoning Ordinance in the following ways:
• According to a University of Minnesota official, the odor model was run incorrectly. When it is run correctly, the proposal does not meet the county’s setback standards.
• The project will negatively impact nearby property values in violation of the county ordinance.
• The feedlot is proposed in a high-risk karst geological area and will be a pollution hazard.
• Required manure spreading agreements, which are to be signed by all landowners, are missing and incomplete.
• A complete site map is also missing from the permit application.
A more detailed analysis of why the Conditional Use Permit application violates the Goodhue County Ordinance can be found here.
Last week, citizens released a report entitled “A Community at Risk: A Report on Citizens’ Hydrogen Sulfide Monitoring at Kohlnhofer Factory Hog Farms in Goodhue County, Minn.” The report shows high levels of hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas, at the property boundary of existing Kohlnhofer hog facilities in Goodhue County. Citizens are calling on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Health to begin continuous air quality monitoring at Kohlnhofer facilities to investigate the extent of hydrogen sulfide exceedances. Neighbors are urging the Kohlnhofers to withdraw their proposal for a new factory farm to protect the community’s public health. The hydrogen sulfide emissions report is available here.
The citizens who filed the appeal are represented by attorney Jeff W. Brown. They will travel to the Minnesota Court of Appeals in St. Paul on Thursday to attend the hearing, which begins at 10:40 a.m.